Reduce your stress through meditation

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Did you know stress is the basic cause of 60 percent of all human illness and disease? Stress increases your risk of stroke by 50 percent, heart disease by 40 percent and heart attack by 25 percent. Three out of every four doctor’s appointments are for stress-related ailments. The impact of stress can also lead to overeating and loss of sleep.

Stress is different for each of us, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for stress management. Some common (non-medication) tricks and tips for managing stress include aerobic exercise, prayer, yoga, deep breathing, massage therapy, acupuncture, listening to music, volunteer work, keeping a daily journal, laughter, shopping, spending time with family and hobbies.

Many people also find stress relief through meditation. Spending a few minutes each day meditating can restore your inner peace, and it won’t cost you a penny!

What is meditation? For thousands of years, people have practiced meditation—falling into a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil, clear mind. Meditation eliminates the mental clutter that may be causing your stress.

Benefits of meditation

There are many benefits of meditation, including:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Decreasing pulse rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving mood

How to meditate for stress relief

The relaxation response technique is one form of meditation many use to reduce stress. This technique tackles the “fight or flight” response to stress head-on. To practice the relaxation response, find a quiet, peaceful place free of distractions where you can sit quietly with your eyes closed for 10 to 20 minutes. Relax all the muscles in your body, starting with your feet and working up to your facial muscles. Breathe naturally through your nose. Choose a word or phrase you like, such as “peace,” or another word that holds a special meaning for you. Silently repeat that word or phrase to yourself during the course of your meditation. When you have finished, sit quietly with your eyes closed, gradually allowing your mind to return to the present.

Other forms of meditation you may want to try to reduce your stress include:

  • Guided meditation or visualization, in which you form mental images of relaxing places or situations.
  • Mindfulness meditation, in which you focus on slow, deep breathing, observing your thoughts and emotions but allowing them to pass without judgment.
  • Tai Chi, a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. 
  • Yoga, a series of controlled breathing exercises and physical postures that require balance and concentration to promote a flexible body and calm mind. 
  • Prayer, both spoken and written. 
  • Reading and reflecting on scriptures, poems or texts that hold a special meaning for you.

No one form of meditation works for everyone. Find what works for you and work it into your daily life to reduce your stress level and improve your mental and physical health.

Mother’s Day: A celebration of the purest kind of love

Moms do more for their children than we can ever know—and so often, their love and sacrifice goes unnoticed. Any mother would admit that being “Mom” is the most rewarding thing she’s ever done, but that doesn’t mean that moms always receive the appreciation they deserve.

We believe that Washington Irving said it best: “A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”

Mother’s Day is one day we set aside each year to honor our mothers, but one day could never be enough to truly say thank you.

Around the world, Mother’s Day is celebrated in different ways. The first Mother’s Day celebration in America took place in 1908 in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1914, Mother’s Day was declared an official U.S. holiday. The celebration of motherhood, however, traces back to ancient history when the Greeks and Romans held festivals in honor of Rhea and Cybele, the mother goddesses.

Like Valentine’s Day and many U.S. holidays, Mother’s Day has become largely commercialized. In fact, Mother’s day is one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. It is also on Mother’s Day that the most phone calls are placed in the U.S.

To all moms everywhere—biological, adoptive and mother-figures alike—we honor and thank you for your boundless love and hard work!

7 fresh home decorating ideas for spring

38270537_mSpring may be in the air, but is your home holding on to the dull, chilly air of winter? It’s time to move out Old Man Winter and brighten your home with fresh spring décor.

Here are eight simple spring decorating ideas for your home.

Bloom Box Centerpiece: Create a fresh centerpiece for your table with a bloom box. You’ll need a window box planter, wheat grass, floral wire, hot glue and stems of tulips and ranunculus (or your own choice of spring blooms). For instructions, click here.

Doorknob Bouquet: A beautiful spring doorknob bouquet is the perfect way to welcome visitors to your home. Plug the end of a funnel with a cork, stuff the funnel with water-soaked florist’s foam inside a plastic bag and insert spring blooms stems such as tulips, lilies and bleeding hearts. Hang the funnel on your doorknob using wire or a piece of burlap ribbon.

Floating Flowers: Fill a bowl with water and float small candles and the blooms of colorful spring flowers in the water. Your floating flowers can serve as a centerpiece on your dining table or as a simple spring statement on an accent table.

Potted Centerpiece: Using a galvanized metal bucket and potting soil, bring the beauty of spring indoors with a potted centerpiece.

Hang Your Boots: Grab a spare pair of rubber gardening boots or rain boots and hang them on your front door using a metal grommets on each boot. Place a three-inch vase inside each boot, fill each vase with water and create a bouquet of fresh seasonal blooms. Loop burlap ribbon through the grommets on the boots and hang on a nail.

Bright Floral Pillows: Give your sofa an all-new look with a collection of bright, floral throw pillows. Purchase pillows or make your own by recovering old, outdated pillows in beautiful spring fabric.

Rainbow Wreath: Using Easter egg dye, color a collection of rattan globes in varying sizes with fun spring colors. Glue them together to form a wreath and hang on your door for a cheerful spring greeting.

When decorating your home for spring, focus on incorporating bright, cheerful colors and on bringing the outdoors inside. Nothing says spring quite like a beautiful bouquet of fresh blooms.

9 simple tips for better sleep

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How well you sleep at night affects nearly every aspect of your daily life, from your energy level to your appetite and cravings. Unfortunately, difficulty sleeping is all too common among American adults, and the prevalence of insomnia is higher among older adults. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 44 percent of senior citizens experience one or more symptoms of insomnia.

Though it varies from person to person, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults 65 and older get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. To get better sleep at night, follow these simple steps:

  • Make sleep a priority. Plan your day appropriately to ensure you are able to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day.
  • Exercise daily. Research shows that moderate to high intensity exercise improves sleep, but don’t exercise within three to four hours of your bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom at an ideal temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit) with limited sound and light. Keep electronics out of your bedroom.
  • Turn off electronics at least an hour before you go to bed.
  • Mix a few drops of a soothing essential oil, such as lavender or chamomile, with water in a spray bottle and spritz your pillowcase to help you relax before bed.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as taking a warm bath or reading a book before bed.
  • Remember that alcohol and caffeine consumption can affect your sleep. Cut out caffeine after 2pm, and don’t drink alcohol at least an hour before bedtime.

Take a look at your medications and review them with your doctor. Many medications—such as beta blockers for high blood pressure—may cause insomnia. Write down all your medications and supplements and ask your doctor to evaluate how they might be affecting your sleep.

If you are experiencing constant sleepiness during the day, leg cramps or tingling at night, snoring, difficulty breathing during sleep or other symptoms that may be affecting your sleep, talk to your doctor. In some cases, difficulty sleeping is caused by a potentially serious underlying cause, such as sleep apnea.

Top 5 houseplants for better health

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Plants are nice to look at and they can liven up your home, but they can also give you a much-needed health boost. Houseplants promote clean air, fight fatigue and stress, and can fend off dry throat, cough, headaches and dry skin.

According to the Wall Street Journal“a growing body of research is showing that plants can reduce dust particles and contaminants, such as formaldehyde and benzene, that come from cigarette smoke, paint, furniture, building materials and other sources.”

Keep the air in your home pure and give your body an immunity boost with these five houseplants.

  1. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (a.k.a. Snake Plant):  One of the best plants for filtering out formaldehyde, which is common in household cleaning products, the mother-in-law’s tongue is the perfect plant for those without a green thumb. Its tall, hardy blades tolerate low light and irregular watering.
  2. Spider Plant: Named for its long, thin leaves that look like spider legs, the spider plant is a low-maintenance hanging plant that is easy to care for. The spider plant will help fight benzene, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide in the air.
  3. Chinese Evergreen: Another easy-to-care-for plant that will clear the air of a number of pollutants and toxins. Even if it is in low light, the Chinese evergreen will produce blooms and red berries.
  4. Aloe Vera Plant: If you use chemical-based cleaners, an aloe vera plant will help clear the air of chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene. The gel inside the plant can also be used to help heal cuts and burns. The aloe plant is an easy-to-grow succulent that loves bright sun, so place it near a window that gets direct sunlight.
  5. Bamboo Palm: The bamboo palm (a.k.a. reed palm) is a small palm that thrives in the shade indoors. The bamboo palm is one of the best plants for filtering out benzene and trichloroethylene. Put it near your furniture to filter out any formaldehyde that might be coming off furniture.

Give your home some ambiance with any of these easy-to-care-for plants, and do your health a favor at the same time. So many household products can release dangerous chemicals that houseplants are almost a necessity if you want to breathe clean, fresh air.

Balance exercises for senior adults

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The risk of falling is a big concern for senior adults. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults. According to the CDC, one of every three adults over age 65 fall each year, and about 20 to 30 percent of those will suffer moderate to severe injuries.

As we age, vision declines, our muscles become weaker, bones become more brittle and we begin to lose our sense of balance—all factors that contribute to the seriousness of the issue of falling for senior adults.

Common injuries from falls

Falling poses a big risk to aging adults, and it can result in serious injuries. Common injuries from falls include:

• Lacerations and bruises
• Head traumas and traumatic brain injuries
• Fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand

These injuries can make it difficult for a senior adults to get around or to live independently, and they also increase the risk of early death. Fear of falling causes some people to limit their activities, leading to reduced physical fitness and mobility and increasing their actual risk of falling.

Older adults can reduce their chances of falling and stay independent by exercising regularly, getting routine eye exams, speaking to their doctor or pharmacist about medications that may cause dizziness or drowsiness and making their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards and installing grab bars around stairways and in bathrooms.

Exercising to prevent falls

Strength and balance exercises are important when it comes to preventing falls. Here are some simple exercises you can do to improve your balance and strength and live more independently.

Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Hold the position for up to 10 seconds, repeating 10 to 15 times on both legs.
Walk heel to toe, taking 20 steps putting the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot.
Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other, holding your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. With each step, left your back leg and pause for one second before moving forward. Repeat for 20 steps.
Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Slowly raise one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Keep the leg you are standing on slightly bent. Hold for one second before slowly lowering your leg. Repeat 10 to 15 times on both legs.
Similar to the above exercise, raise one leg out to the side, keeping your back straight and toes facing forward. Hold for one second before slowly lowering your leg. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each leg.

With each of these exercises, always have a sturdy chair or another person nearby to hold on to, if needed. To challenge yourself, try these exercises holding the chair with only one hand, then with no hands. When you feel steady on your feet, try doing them with your eyes closed.

Note: Talk to your doctor before trying any of these exercises.

10 ways to go green for earth day

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Today is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day! Cleaning up the environment and building sustainable communities may seem like big ideas, but the future of our planet is at stake, and we all have a responsibility to do our part to help save the earth.

If everyone would make small adjustments in their daily habits, the overall impact would be huge. Here are 10 easy ways you can go green for Earth Day—and every other day, too.

  1. Keep your electronics, such as your computer, turned off at night or when not in use. Even if your computer is “asleep,” it’s still using energy.
  2. Read the news online to save paper. Do you have subscriptions to magazines or newspapers that you could read online instead? Sharing subscriptions is another way to cut down on waste. If you have family or friends nearby who read the same newspaper or magazines as you, consider sharing your subscriptions.
  3. Recycle. If you aren’t already sorting your trash and recycling, you should be! Plastics, paper, glass—these can all be recycled.
  4. Purchase reusable cloth or canvas grocery bags. Within Dallas city limits, grocery stores now must charge $.05 per plastic bag. Save money and the planet by using reusable bags instead.
  5. Take your own mug to the coffee shop. If you frequent Starbucks or another local coffee shop that uses paper mugs, take your own mug instead. Some coffee shops will even give you a discount on your coffee!
  6. Plant some green. Even a small houseplant can make a difference for the environment.
  7. If you’ve got several places to go in a week, try to schedule your errands and appointments back-to-back to help cut down on gas. Doing so will also save you time and money!
  8. Use all-natural, eco-friendly cleaning products and dish detergent.
  9. Pick up litter when you’re out for your daily walk. We’re all responsible for keeping the earth clean and beautiful, and picking up trash you see when you’re outside is one very simple way you can do your part.
  10. Switch out your incandescent light bulbs for fluorescent, LED or halogen bulbs.

None of us can singlehandedly save the planet, but each of us can do our small part. Will you commit to making 10 small changes in your daily life? If you want to do more to help save the planet, visit www.earthday.org for more information and ideas on how you can get involved.

10 ways to create a safer home for seniors

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Maintaining your independence as you age is important, and although home can be more comfortable for aging adults, it can also unfortunately become hazardous. An aging body, health problems and side effects from medications can increase risk of falls and injury in the home. In fact, the leading cause of death among adults over age 65 is falling, which results in broken hips and then leads to other serious medical problems.

Here are 10 tips for creating a safer home for senior citizens:

  • Check smoke alarms, place smoke detectors around the home in easily accessible places, create a clear emergency escape plan and install carbon monoxide detectors. These are important for the safety of any home, no matter one’s age.
  • Keep the home well lit, especially in walkways and stairways. Install extra light switches or remote switches, and use nightlights in bathrooms and hallways.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as raised doorway thresholds, floor rugs and loose carpet. Clear walking paths of furniture and electrical cords.
  • Wax hard floors with nonskid floor wax, put nonslip strips on floors and steps and use nonskid mats inside and outside the bathtub or shower and around toilets and sinks.
  • Turn water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below to avoid burns, and clearly label hot and cold faucets.
  • Add sturdy handrails to any stairways inside and outside the home.
  • Install grab handles in bathrooms near toilets and bathtubs/showers.
  • Store household items and heavy items at waist level or below for easy access, and keep a grabber nearby to reach items that are out of reach.
  • Place a step stool with handrails near cabinets or shelves where items are kept up high.
  • Consider a medical alert system.

Keeping the home a safe place as you age doesn’t have to be costly, and your health and safety is worth the effort. Your independence is important, but don’t hesitate to ask family or friends for help when you need it.

Influential American Jazz Musicians of the 20th Century

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Jazz music got its start on American soil—in the fields where the slaves made up songs to pass time and to remember the culture and traditions of their African heritage. New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz, since that’s where the music got its name in the early 1900s.

In honor of National Jazz Appreciation Month, here are some of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century.

Miles Davis: Miles Davis was a leader of the 20th century jazz movement and one of the most innovative and influential musicians of his time. He is responsible for the emergence of be-bop, hard bop, cool jazz, free jazz, funk and techno music. Davis’ success laid the foundation for many other successful jazz musicians, including John Coltrane, J.J. Johnson, Cannonball Adderley and many others. Davis was the recipient of multiple awards during his lifetime, including eight Grammy Awards and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Ella Fitzgerald: One of the top female jazz singers for decades, Ella Fitzgerald became known as the “First Lady of Song” and recorded more than 200 albums and more than 2,000 songs in her lifetime. In 1958, she made history as the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award. She went on to win a total of 13 Grammys (among numerous other awards) and sell more than 40 million albums.

Billie Holiday: Perhaps the most powerful vocalist of her time and one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Billie Holiday (a.k.a. “Lady Day”) had a unique vocal style and thrived as a jazz singer until she lost her battle with addiction in 1959. Holiday is known for her melancholy tone and distinctive phrasing. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

John Coltrane: One of the most influential figures in American jazz music. Coltrane played both tenor and soprano saxophone, and his compositions helped redefine be-bop. Coltrane recorded about 50 albums during his career, and is the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, among many other accolades.

Louis Armstrong: One of the greatest musicians of all time, Louis Armstrong was a trumpet player and singer from New Orleans. Legendary singers, including Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, were largely influenced by Armstrong’s singing, and he is also partially responsible for the recognition of the trumpet as a solo instrument in jazz.

Duke Ellington: A pianist, composer and big-band leader, Duke Ellington was one of the most important bandleaders in American jazz history. Ellington was not only a jazz musician, but was also influential in gospel, blues, classical and pop music. Ellington’s lifetime achievements include 13 Grammy awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, to name just a few. Ellington is the inspiration behind the music of Thelonius Monk, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie and many other well-known musicians.

Max Roach: One of the greatest drummers in history, Roach is partially responsible for modern jazz drumming. He was so skilled at drumming that he could play solo shows, leaving audiences enthralled with his performances. Over the years, he played with other jazz artists including Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington, among others.

Turn on your favorite album and celebrate the history and culture of America’s true art form—soulful, spiritual, bluesy jazz.

Avoid These 10 Common Couponing Mistakes

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Couponing can save you big bucks on your grocery shopping, but making common couponing mistakes can be costly. Avoid couponing mistakes and save the most money with these tips.

  1. Know the fine print and store policies. Avoid a time-consuming conflict at the register by reading the fine print on your coupons and knowing the store policies on how coupons can be used. Every coupon comes with fine print that spells out the expiration date, guidelines and restrictions for use; and store policies often vary from one store to the next, so print out a copy of your store’s coupon policies and carry it with you for quick reference.
  2. Don’t forget to stack your coupons. Do you have a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon for a particular item? Stack them to maximize your savings! Be sure you’re also using store loyalty cards to get the most bang for your buck at the register.
  3. Use coupons on sale items, too. Just because an item is on sale at your store doesn’t mean that the sale price is the lowest price. You will save the most using coupons when you combine those coupons with store sales. Most grocery stores follow a “sale cycle,” so get familiar with when particular items will go on sale (pay attention to those store ads that come in the mail!) and plan to use your coupons during the sale.
  4. Compare generic to name-brand prices. Oftentimes, the price of buying generic is still less than using a coupon on a brand name item. If the brand doesn’t matter, then be sure to skip the coupon and buy generic if it’s cheaper.
  5. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Just because something is on sale or you have a coupon doesn’t mean you need to buy it. If you won’t use it, don’t waste your money on it, no matter how good the bargain.
  6. Don’t invest more time than you can spare couponing. Couponing can easily become a job, so you need to determine how much time you have to spend couponing and find what works best for you within that time frame. This may just mean clipping coupons from Sunday’s paper. If you have more time to dedicate to couponing, then you might also try searching for coupons online. Remember, your time is valuable. If you are spending too much time couponing and end up neglecting other responsibilities, is the couponing really worth it?
  7. Compare prices between stores. When you have a manufacturer’s coupon for a particular item, you will save the most when you use that coupon at the store with the lowest price. Keep in mind also that most stores will price match, so don’t forget to carry competitor ads with you when shopping. Always remember to factor in the cost of gas if you will be driving to different stores to get everything on your shopping list. Just because you have a coupon, that doesn’t mean you’ll save money if it costs you more in time and gas to use that coupon.
  8. Watch your budget. If couponing requires you to buy in bulk to save money, but you don’t have the budget to buy in bulk, then it isn’t worth it. Couponing should help you save money and stretch your budget, not cause you to exceed your budget.
  9. Be organized. Keep your coupons organized using an accordion-style binder to keep your shopping trip as stress-free as possible. Organize coupons by type of product or store aisle, then organize each small group of coupons by expiration date. Be sure to toss any coupons that have expired.
  10. Don’t leave your coupons at home! This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is one of the most common couponing mistakes people make. Always carry your full binder of coupons with you—you never know when you’ll need to buy something that wasn’t on your original shopping list.

Couponing requires organization and careful planning, but it should not be an overwhelming experience or cause you undue stress. Find a system that works best for you and stick to that system. Remember: what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next. Your couponing system should save you time and money, not cost you.