The cooler weather combined with stress from the pandemic can cause more inflammation in our bodies, making us feel weaker and more tired than usual.
While prolonged stress can lead to a number of negative health effects, food intake can play a major role in managing your health. Here’s what to eat and what not to eat if you’re feeling stressed...
Reduce your intake of red meat and anything with trans fats, like butter, margarine and corn oil. Avoid fried foods, sugar, and processed foods.
Fruits and vegetables. We’ve all been told we need to eat more fruits and veggies, but it’s true. Berries and grapes are especially notable because they contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation. Grapes also have resveratrol, a plant compound that reduces blood pressure and cholesterol. Meanwhile, celery and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale reduces risks of heart disease.
There are many health benefits to a good cup of tea. Tea has antioxidants called catechins, which reduce inflammation. Green tea is especially best for beating inflammation.
You can spice up just about anything you consume. Turmeric, a popular yellow spice in India, is one of the best anti-inflammatories because it contains curcumin, which can help with arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases. Ginger and rosemary are also known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Research shows combining multiple spices together can have anti-inflammatory effects.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Our bodies need fatty acids, especially, EPA and DHA, to function. Fish, like salmon and tuna are rich in omega 3’s, while walnuts, tofu, flaxseed, soybeans and olive oil are high in fatty acids
Written by Katy Savage
Around the same time the pandemic hit, cottagecore, the internet aesthetic showcasing a return to simpler life, started booming.
As people continue to shelter in homes and seek comfort in an uncomfortable time, pastoral hobbies like sewing, gardening, and homesteading, are becoming part of the new normal.
Imagine escaping city life to live in a cabin in the woods, where you go to bed early, hang your laundry to dry, and grow your own food.
Here are some ways to live your best cottagecore life…
Test your baking skills. Have you always struggled to perfect homemade bread? Or ever wanted to try homemade pasta? Here’s a recipe to get started.
Carve a pumpkin. Get crafty this holiday season. Just because trick or treating might be canceled in your town, that doesn’t mean you can’t be excited for Halloween. Go all out and decorate. Get creative with different pumpkin carvings.
Make a bird feeder. As the days get shorter and colder, birds are seeking food now more than ever. Consider a DIY bird feeder using a recycled plastic bottle. This simple YouTube tutorial from Eco Sapien is a great way to get started. You can also get prepared to participate in the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count from Monday, December 14, 2020 through Tuesday, January 5, 2021, by counting the types of birds that come to your feeder. Here’s how to join the count. If you’re a beginner bird watcher or an expert, this authoritative app can help you identify more than 800 birds by listening to their calls and viewing photos.
Go foraging for mushrooms. Mushrooms are not only fun to find, they are good for your health. Mushrooms contain a number of B vitamins and consuming them has been linked to better heart health, a healthier digestive system, and better skin. All you need is a forest and a good pair of shoes. Just be careful of poisonous mushrooms! Take a look at this app, featuring 570 types of North American species to help you identify mushrooms you spot along the way.
Join a book club. Being part of a club is a great way to get you excited about reading.
Drink tea. Drink a selection of herbal tea in your favorite mug. It’s relaxing, good for your health, and yummy.
Go forest bathing. If you’re feeling stressed, studies show that being surrounded by trees is a natural way to unwind and center yourself. If you’re unsure what forest bathing is, here’s how to get started.
For more ideas on how to seek comfort at home, check out our staycation e-book.
Written by Katy Savage
Figuring out how to work from home has become a new reality for many of us.
There are pros and cons to being home all the time. While studies have shown 82% of people who work from home are less stressed than people who work in offices, it’s not always easy to stay productive when your home doubles as your office.
Whether you work from home one day a week or full time, creating a mindful home workspace can make you more focused and productive.
Here are some tips...
1. Go to your office.
While you won’t have normal commute time if you work from home, make a dedicated office space in your house, free of distraction, and use the area only for work. Go to your office with intention, even if it’s just down the hall.
2. Take regular breaks.
If your job allows breaks, researchers have found working for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break leads to the best productivity because the brain switches from a high level of activity to a low level of activity during that time. Set a timer to remind yourself to take breaks. If you have more time to spare for a break, go outside and take a walk. If you only have a minute, do a breathing exercise.
3. Put your phone away.
It’s tempting to look at your phone, but try setting it aside. Set a timer and make a commitment to not look at your phone or check your email until the timer goes off.
4. Switch up your tasks.
Focusing on one thing for too long can create fatigue, so set reminders to change the tasks you’re working.
5. Add some plants to your office.
Plants not only add color to a room, but they can increase happiness and reduce stress, leading to better productivity. To learn more about some of our favorite houseplants that improve your mood, click here.
6. Bring in more light.
If possible, set up your home office near a window to take advantage of natural light.
7. Stand up.
Having the flexibility to sit or stand while your work can improve your health. Studies show standing for 15 to 30 minutes per hour helps prevent pain and cramping from sitting.
8. Make a to-do list
At the end of the day make a to-do list of what you want to accomplish the next day so you’re ready to jump in and get started.
9. Clean up.
Before you sign off for the day, clean up your work space of any papers, coffee mugs, or trash so your mind is clear and your desk is clutter-free for the next day.
Written By Katy Savage
Months after the first major global outbreak, COVID-19 keeps many parks and gyms closed, but don’t let that deter you from getting in some type of movement each day. Exercise makes you mentally and physically stronger, and being as healthy as you can is one way you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. For peak mobility and strength, it’s especially important to keep your lower back flexible and strong, so we’ve put together our 5 favorite lower back moves, all of which can be done - safely - at home.
1. Abdominal Curls
• Lie back, keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent
• With your hands behind your head or with arms crossed around your chest
• Raise your shoulders from the floor
• Breath out while raising your shoulders
• Hold for 3-5 seconds
• Repeat with between 8 and 12 repetitions.
• Do 3 sets
• Lie on the ground and bend the knees, placing the feet flat on the floor hip-width apart
• Press the feet into the floor, keeping the arms by the sides
• Raise the buttocks off the ground until the body forms a straight line from the shoulders to the knees
• Squeeze the buttocks with the shoulders remaining on the floor
• Lower the buttocks to the ground and rest for a few seconds
• Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions
3. Lying Lateral Leg Lifts
• Lie on one side with the legs together
• Keep the lower leg slightly bent or straight
• Draw the bellybutton into the spine to engage the core muscles
• Lift the top leg up keeping it straight and extended
• Hold the position for 3-5 seconds
• Repeat 10 times
• Turn onto the other side of the body and repeat, lifting the other leg
• Do 3 sets on each side
4. Cat Stretch
• Get onto the hands and knees with the knees hip-width apart
• Arch the back, pulling the belly button up toward the spine
• Slowly relax the muscles and allow the abdomen to sag toward the floor
• Return to the starting position
• Repeat 3–5 times twice daily
• Lie face down on the ground and stretch both arms out in front of the body, keeping the legs stretched out and flat on the ground
• Raise both hands and feet aiming to create a gap between them and the floor
• Try to pull in the belly button, lifting it off the floor to engage the core muscles
• Keep the head straight and face the floor to avoid neck injury
• Stretch the hands and feet outward as far as possible
• Hold the position for 3-5 seconds
• Return to the starting position
• Repeat 10 times
By Dipuo Mankheli
Have you ever eaten an entire bag of chips without realizing it until you’re at the bottom of the bag searching for crumbs? You’re not alone. Eating has become a mindless activity — something we rush through — often in front of a computer or television screen — without thinking about it. We eat whether we’re hungry or not. Sometimes we eat to satisfy feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. With the Covid-19 pandemic, this is truer now more than ever. While doctors anecdotally speak of the “quarantine 15” weight gain in patients, Nutritsystem, the weight-loss product service provider, released a study that found 76% of Americans have gained up to 16 pounds during quarantine since mid-March.
Whether you need to lose weight or gain weight, mindful eating could help you establish a healthier connection with food. The practice involves being deeply aware of your senses and physical cues as you eat. Here are 7 beginner tips:
1. Eat to satisfy hunger
2. Eat with intention
3. Appreciate your food
4. Eat slowly
5. Use your senses
6. Turn off electronics
7. Notice how food makes you feel
Like other practices, mindful eating gets easier over time. Incorporating it into your lifestyle can make eating more enjoyable and have a positive impact on your long term health.
Written by Katy Savage
Next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try venturing into the woods.
A practice called forest bathing, or “Shinrin-yoku,” originated in Japan in the 1980s, and is now being embraced by the medical community as growing scientific evidence suggests humans not just feel good in nature, but need it. Trees release a substance called phytoncides, which help plants and trees protect themselves from harmful insects and germs. Research shows that when people breathe in the smell of plants or the forest air, this substance improves immune function, lowers stress levels, and makes us happier.
You don’t need to be athletic and no, you don’t need a bathing suit to forest bathe. You don’t even need a forest.
“We have a client that can’t get out and forest bathes with her houseplants,” said Angela Gross, the admissions coordinator at the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.
Forest bathing is for people of all ages. While some people forest bathe in heavily wooded areas, others forest bathe in botanical gardens or backyards.
To start forest bathing, think back to your childhood. Explore the woods with the same curiosity as you did when you were a kid. Listen to the sounds of the forest — the rustle of leaves in the wind, the songs of birds, and the rush of water nearby. The idea is to connect your senses to the land and let the plants or trees heal you from there. What each person experiences in the woods will be unique to them.
The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, which was founded in 2012 in California, has 1100 guides in 55 countries. "Every year our business has been growing," Gross said. Some come away with a pleasant walk, some come away with life changing experiences."
Maureen Miller, from Georgia, has been a certified forest therapy guide for the past two years. Miller said she first realized the healing powers of trees as a child, when she often turned to the woods as a place of comfort. “The woods are my happy place,” Miller said. “When I was a kid, when everything was wrong, I’d go to the woods and contemplate and write.”
Miller takes clients in the woods near her home. She starts forest therapy sessions with a history of the land as she guides people to open their session.
Each forest bath typically includes a series of 10 “invitations,” or activities that encourage you to consciously take in your surroundings. In one invitation, Miller will, for example, ask people to sit in front of a tree, introduce themselves, and have a conversation with the tree as they observe how the tree listens in return. “The forest is the therapist and we’re just the guides,” Miller said.
The walk takes about three hours. The forest bath ends in a tea ceremony, made from elements found along the walk. The group uses this time to reflect on the forest bath before returning to normal life in a process called the “threshold of incorporation.”
Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Miller, like other forest guides, have started offering virtual forest therapy. You can sign up for sessions here: https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/virtual-forest-therapy-walks
“We are so much related to nature, we need to be in it,” said Miller. “It’s an opportunity not just to connect with nature but to connect with others in the group.”
How to Start Forest Bathing
There is no right or wrong way to start forest bathing and how you proceed will vary by your location. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy has a handful of certified trails, which can be found here: https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/certified-trails#!directory/map
If you don’t live near a certified trail, find a location that’s comfortable to you. Here’s a suggested way to get started forest bathing:
Written by Katy Savage
It is extremely important to maintain good respiratory health - now more than ever. Asthma has been on the rise for decades; it’s the most widespread chronic disease in the world with over 330 million affected.
Environmental irritants such as wildfire smoke make breathing difficult and painful. And of course there is the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists and survivors of COVID-19 report that the virus attacks the lungs, causing inflammation and making it difficult to breathe.
Thankfully, there are some easy, natural ways you can increase your respiratory health right at home.
1. Take deep breaths. Deep breathing relieves stress and naturally detoxifies your body. Fully oxygenated blood also helps you carry and absorb nutrients. Try counting as you breathe in and out. Count in for five seconds, filling your chest and abdomen with as much air as you can, hold the breath for three seconds, and then exhale for five seconds or longer.
2. Stay active. Exercise increases the blood flow to your lungs, allowing the lungs to deliver more oxygen to the blood, thus improving your lung capacity. Exercise also increases the vascularization of the lungs, thereby allowing more blood to flow in and out. This creates a greater surface area for the blood to bind with hemoglobin, which enhances the uptake of oxygen.
3. Eat fresh fruits and veggies. Some natural ways to increase hemoglobin are by watching your diet. Eat iron-rich foods, like dark, green leafy vegetables and dried fruit; increase Vitamin C intake; and increase folic acid intake.
4. Maintain good posture. Slouching puts tension in your shoulders and compresses your lungs, making it harder to breathe and harder for your body to take in air and release toxins.
5. Stay hydrated. Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to flush out toxins and cleanse the lungs in a natural way.
6. Laugh. Even in this stressful time, seek out things that make you chuckle. A good laugh not only boosts mental health, it physically relaxes your body, which decreases stress hormones and increases immune cell production. Laughter also increases blood flow, which can help prevent cardiovascular diseases.
By Dipuo Mankheli and Katy Savage
Even before the pandemic hit, did you know Americans spend about 90% of their time inside? How your home is arranged and designed can vastly impact happiness. Choosing the right color, changing the lighting, and eliminating clutter are some easy ways to start creating a more mindful existence. Consider these five tips:
Bring the outside in
Biophilia refers to the idea that humans have an innate desire to be connected with nature. Numerous research studies have shown the outdoor environment improves self-esteem and mood, increases productivity and improves overall happiness. Some studies have found that working near plants improves memory retention and concentration. Other studies have found employees working in offices with natural light were happier and more productive.
There are ways you can make the inside of your home feel outdoorsy without spending a lot of money. Start with maximizing natural light in your home as much as possible. Move furniture and dark objects away from windows to let the light in. Next, bring in houseplants. Create a living wall or use indoor trees and flowers to brighten a room and cleanse the air.
Don’t stop there. Incorporate wood, stone, or other natural elements, in your home to add texture and warmth to a room.
You might also consider a water fountain to hear the sounds of running water and scents associated with the outdoors to evoke calmness. Studies have shown even having images or paintings of nature surrounded inside a building can improve your mood.
See the light
As we mentioned, it’s always best to maximize natural lighting, but where that’s not possible, try using different light bulbs to evoke a certain mood.
Light bulbs come in all different colors and shades. Lighting that’s too harsh can make you feel anxious while lighting that’s too dark leads to less productivity. How much lighting you want to use in each room will depend on the function of the room. Warm, soft lighting can make you feel calm and may be best in bedrooms and other areas of the house where you spend quiet or relaxation time. Bright bulbs, on the other hand, can energize you in places you want to be alert, like the kitchen, foyer, and office.
Show your true colors
Color is an important part of creating a soothing atmosphere. Red shades can be anxiety inhibiting, while lighter colors make a space feel more open. White is a perfect neutral color that makes a room seem bigger while also allowing natural light to bounce off it. Warm blue hues can be calming while green is also an increasingly popular indoor color. Since green is associated with nature, studies show it makes us feel refreshed and happy. Consider using green in the entrance way to a house to ease the transition from being outside to inside.
Rearrange the furniture
Try basic Feng Shui methods to improve your home. Look at the daily path you walk inside throughout the day, from the time you wake up, to the time you go to bed. Make sure to keep this path clear of any furniture or clutter. Having too many obstacles, like a light fixture that doesn’t work, a sticky door, or a cluttered hallway can drain your energy.
Go ahead and use Marie Kondo’s method to get rid of the extra clutter. Kondo-ing encourages you to find a place for everything in your home and only keep objects that spark joy. This type of minimalistic lifestyle gives your mind space to recover and recharge while reducing depression and anxiety.
Written By Katy Savage
Happy August from your friends at Stone Hill!
For many people, August is summer vacation month, when we take to the road to find a warm spot by the sea, breathe in the salt air, and pause.
With the pandemic in full swing, we know this may not be possible or advisable, so we at Stone Hill wanted to offer you the next best thing. Close all other computer windows, or put your phone on “silent,” grab some earphones, a homemade iced tea, and find a quiet spot where you can take in this video created by our media team. Breathe. Savor. Repeat.
Sending you love and sunshine,
wherever August finds you,
The Stone Hill Team
PS: Don’t forget to download your copy of The Essential Guide to Staycationing for beautiful, inspiring photos, ideas, and yummy recipes to make your home your favorite getaway.
It’s no secret that these are highly anxious times for our world. Fear of the pandemic and uncertainty about the future can be overwhelming. Social distancing mandates can be isolating and changes in everyday routine can be disruptive. While so much of what we’re used to is out of our control, there may be a simple remedy to ease stresses and worries: houseplants.
If you don’t have a houseplant, today might be the day you consider adopting one. Here’s why:
Most homes are full of harmful chemicals that can cause headaches, dizziness, coughing, sore throat, eye irritation, and more serious health issues like heart problems and liver damage.
Here are 5 chemicals in everyday products and the impact on human health, according to NASA research.
Ammonia - Found in window cleaners. Can cause eye irritation, coughing and sore throat.
Benzene - Found in dyes and detergents. Can cause eye irritation, drowsiness, dizziness, increased heart rate, headaches, confusion and unconsciousness.
Formaldehyde - Found in paper products. Can cause nose, mouth, throat and eye irritation and sometimes swelling of the larynx and lungs.
Trichloroethylene - Found in printer ink, paints and paint remover. Can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and sometimes drowsiness and coma.
Xylene - Found in printing products, certain rubbers, leathers and paints. Can cause headache, dizziness, heart problems, liver and kidney damage, coma, and irritation to the mouth and throat.
The good news is houseplants act as natural air filters, cleansing the air of all the above chemicals and more. Countless studies have shown houseplants improve air quality and naturally bring light and energy to a room, which can reduce stress, improve mood and sleep, decrease anxiety, and enhance memory. Here are 5 easy-to-grow plants that are the best at filtering air:
1. Devil’s Ivy
Alternative common names: Pothos, Money Plant
Scientific name: Epipremnum aureum
Description: This climbing or trailing vine can grow "like the devil," but is usually 6 ft. (1.8 m) long indoors. Its heart-shaped leaves are marked with white or yellow.
How to grow: In bright light, its leaves will become more richly marked with yellow or white. If you grow your plant in low light, be careful not to overwater it. Let the soil dry out slightly between waterings. These plants are best in hanging baskets. Periodically take the plant to the sink and spray its leaves with water. Fertilize no more than 2 or 3 times a year, and always when the plant is actively growing. If your vines become lanky, cut it back. Propagate by taking tip cuttings.
Health benefits: Devil’s Ivy is often used by Feng Shui experts to reduce stress and improve sleep quality, especially when placed near a television or wifi box. Devil’s Ivy is also a superior plant for ridding the air of chemicals like trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and ammonia.
2. Peace Lily
Common names: Spath
Scientific name: Spathiphyllum
Description: The flower stalk of this 2-ft. (60-cm) hybrid is 15 to 20 in. (38 to 50 cm) long. Its spathe is slightly scented.
How to grow: Spathe flowers tolerate medium light and average room temperatures. Water freely and provide extra humidity. Never let them become dry. Fertilize the plants every 2 weeks throughout the year, but if temperatures dip below 60°F (15.5°C) in winter, let them rest. Repot in spring, using a standard potting mixture, until your plant reaches the largest pot size you can accommodate. Then divide it or keep it in the same pot and top-dress it with fresh soil. Propagate by division. In direct sun, or if the leaves touch a freezing window, ugly brown spots may appear. Cut off the blighted leaves; new ones will take their place.
Health benefits: The Peace Lily is one of the easiest plants to care for and one of the best for purifying air. It cleanses the air of trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and ammonia and can increase humidity in a room by 5%. Consider putting a Peace Lily in your bedroom to improve air quality while you sleep.
3. English Ivy
Alternative common name: European Ivy
Scientific name: Hedera Helix
Description: The leaves of this species are typical of ivy plants — 5-lobed, dark green, and about 2 in. (5 cm) long. The leaves of varieties may be oval, pointed, heart-shaped, or erect; crinkled, crested, ruffled, or waved; and mottled or variegated.
How to grow: Although ivies will grow in a warm room, they prefer temperatures ranging from 65°F (18.5°C) during the day to 45°F (7°C) at night. In hot rooms, ivies tend to get spider mites. One way to avoid these pests is to shower your plants in the sink regularly. Bright light and normal room humidity are satisfactory. Water thoroughly, but let the soil dry out somewhat between waterings. Pinch back new tips to encourage bushiness and fertilize in spring and again in summer. Repot whenever necessary, using an all-purpose potting soil. Propagate from tip cuttings.
Health benefits: English Ivy can improve symptoms of allergies and asthma. The plant rids the air of trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. It can also reduce mold in a room by as much as 78%.
4. Snake Plant
Alternative common names: Mother-in-Law's Tongue, Saint George’s Sword, Viper’s Bowstring Hemp
Scientific name: Sansevieria Trifasciata
Description:This cultivar has lemon-yellow bands along the edges of the leaves. It grows to a height of 18 in. (45 cm). It is the most popular of the snake plants.
How to grow: These plants tolerate almost any level of neglect. They do very well in average room temperatures and in direct sun to medium or even low light. The only thing they cannot stand is overwatering. The lower the light, the less water they need, and the soil should always be allowed to dry out between waterings. From spring to fall, feed with half-strength fertilizer once a month.
Health benefits: Snake plants produce extra oxygen at night, which can improve sleep. They also help clean the air from trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene.
5. Red-edged Dracaena
Alternative common name: Dragon Tree
Scientific name: Dracaena marginata
Description: These handsome foliage plants come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and grow in different ways. They are among the most reliable of indoor plants, no matter how dark or sunny your home, you could easily find the right place for each of them. They range in size from 18 in. (45 cm) to 6ft. (1.8 m); the larger ones are particularly attractive when young.
How to grow: Bright light but no direct sun is best to keep the leaves colorful, but dracaenas often do quite well in medium light, too. Like most foliage plants, they appreciate extra humidity. Water them freely from spring to fall, keeping the soil evenly moist; in winter, let it dry out somewhat between waterings. Fertilize your plants every two weeks during the growing season. Repot using an all-purpose soil mix whenever it becomes necessary.
Health benefits: Red-edged Dracaenas reduce anxiety and improve mood by reducing chemicals including trichloroethylene, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene.
Did you know…?
July 27 is Take Your Houseplant for a Walk Day— a holiday for proud plant parents to take their potted plant children for a stroll around the neighborhood. The idea is to expose houseplants to the outside—their native environment — and to share and seek gardening advice from neighbors.
We’re celebrating Take Your Houseplant for a Walk Day by announcing the launch of a new houseplants app, the Fieldstone Guide to Houseplants, which will feature complete descriptions, images and growing instructions for more than 300 houseplants. The app includes how to propagate, pot, and water indoor plants. The app is for everyone, from late bloomers to seasoned green thumbs.
Author: Katy Savage