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Month: April 2016

10 Ways to Get Peace of Mind in 2017

10 Ways to Get Peace of Mind in 2017

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2016 may or may not have gone as planned, but there’s no need to worry! 2017 will bring even more opportunities for improvement and personal growth. If you didn’t meet your 2016 goals, don’t beat yourself up. According to a recent study, approximately 92% of Americans fail to meet their New Year’s resolutions. That means that only 8% manage to stick to their promises and make the positive changes they desire.

But 2017 is your year, and this time you will succeed.

One of the best things you can do for yourself in 2017 is to strive for peace of mind. A peaceful mind is the optimal starting point for anything you would like to achieve, and it will give you the sense of support and reassurance you need to tackle the rest of your New Year’s resolutions. It sets up a mental “environment” that can keep you calm, positive, and motivated throughout the year, and it also does wonders for your health!

Check out these ten recommendations to get started.

Being out in nature has highly positive effects on the mind and body. Spending time outdoors reduces feelings of stress and frustration, lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and strengthens the immune system. It’s also a good opportunity to get some fresh air and a healthy dose of vitamin D. You may even find that you come up with better ideas on your walks.

One of the biggest causes of stress is money and the lack of financial security. Financial issues also put a strain on relationships and are a leading cause of divorce. To get more peace of mind in 2017, create a realistic budget and stick to it. Having a budget in place and giving more attention to your finances will make you feel more secure and in control of your situation. It will also help you figure out when you can safely make purchases and when it’s time to cut back.

Learning how to meditate will help you get ahead in many ways, including improving your focus and lowering your stress levels. Meditating helps you by slowing down your thoughts and creating space in your mind. It forces you to be present and removes any worries you may have for the future, or regrets you have from the past. It’s a great way to reset your mind and refresh yourself for the day and tasks ahead, and it’s also the perfect way to prepare for a good night’s sleep.

Whether it’s Zumba, yoga, or spinning, joining a fitness class will keep you healthy and on track with your fitness goals. As opposed to working out alone, joining a fitness class will automatically create a fitness schedule for you and make you less inclined to skip or quit altogether. It also adds a social element and makes the workout more engaging and fun. Joining a class with a friend will give you extra incentive to show up.

5. Learn How to Cook Healthy Dishes

One of the foremost things people worry about is their health. Eating healthy food is an obvious solution to weight issues, malnutrition, and disease management. However, most restaurants don’t have many healthy options, and the unhealthy options are often too tempting to ignore. To avoid these temptations, it’s best to cook your meals at home. Learning to cook healthy, balanced meals will make you feel better and give you more peace of mind in areas that concern your wellness and appearance.

6. Get Your Home Organized

When your home is cluttered, your mind is cluttered. Home is where you are supposed to be able to relax and release the day’s stress. If its chaotic, unorganized, and even unattractive, you won’t find any peace of mind there. Having an arrangement that is functional and orderly is essential. Having furnishings that are comfortable and pleasing to look at is equally important. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but everything from your bedding to your rugs should be comfortable and soothing.

You probably cringe at the idea of giving up your favorite morning beverage, but doing so can radically change your life for the better. If you experience frequent symptoms of anxiety, and most people do, drinking large quantities of caffeine will only make your symptoms worse. Drinking coffee every day can increase feelings of confusion, frustration, and urgency, and it can keep you from getting a good night’s rest.

If there’s one person who can help you do anything or reach any goal, it’s a life coach. Life coaches are experts at helping people straighten out their priorities and create master plans for success. They also help their clients reduce stress and introduce them to techniques that can bring them more peace of mind. They can become a major part of your support system and help you feel more secure in the knowledge that you are on the right path.

9. Devote Time to Your Goal Every Day

If you never devote time to the things you want to do, they will never get done. Setting aside just half an hour every day to work towards a personal goal will help you feel more at ease and much more satisfied with your life. Things that need to get done will get done because they must, but it’s up to you to make your personal goals a priority.

Committing to a cause you care about will make the world a better place, and it’s the perfect way to bring yourself more peace and happiness. Spending time volunteering, donating money, sponsoring people and pets, or helping to spread awareness are all great ways to commit yourself to something meaningful. It will give you the added comfort of knowing that you’re someone who helps and works for positive change.

Peace of mind is easy to achieve when its backed by the force of intention. Taking small steps such as the ones listed above will go a long way in making you a more peaceful, happy, and balanced person.

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One Breath Into This Breathalyzer Can Diagnose 17 Diseases

One Breath Into This Breathalyzer Can Diagnose 17 Diseases

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A single breath into a newfangled breathalyzer is all doctors need to diagnose 17 different diseases, including lung cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis, a new study found.

Researchers invited about 1,400 people from five different countries to breathe into the device, which is still in its testing phases. The breathalyzer could identify each person’s disease with 86 percent accuracy, the researchers said.

The technology works because “each disease has its own unique breathprint,” the researchers wrote in the study. [10 Crazy New Skills That Robots Picked Up in 2016]

The breathalyzer analyzes microscopic compounds — called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — to detect each condition. Testing for VOCs isn’t a new approach; in 400 B.C., physicians learned that smelling a patient’s bodily emissions could help with diagnoses. For instance, doctors used to smell the stools and urine of infant noblemen daily, the researchers said.  

But while excrement and other bodily substances, such as blood, contain VOCs, examining exhaled breath is the cheapest, easiest and least invasive way to test for the compounds, the researchers said.

Breath evaluation

To investigate using breath for diagnosis, the researchers developed a breathalyzer that had two nanolayers, one with carbon and the other without. The carbon-free layer contained modified gold nanoparticles and a network of nanotubes, both of which provide electrical conductivity, the researchers said.

Meanwhile, the carbon layer worked as a sensing layer to hold the exhaled VOCs, the scientists said. When a person breathed into the breathalyzer, that individual’s VOCs interacted with the organic sensing layer, which in turn changed the electrical resistance of the inorganic sensors. By measuring this resistance, the researchers could determine which VOCs were present, the scientists said.

There are hundreds of known VOCs in exhaled breath, but the researchers needed only 13 to distinguish among the 17 different diseases. For instance, the VOC nonanal is linked to several disorders, including ovarian cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and breast cancer, whereas the VOC isoprene is associated with chronic liver disease, kidney disease and diabetes, the researchers said.

Because each VOC is tied to several conditions, “These results support our finding that no single VOC can discriminate between different diseases,” the researchers wrote in the study.

Exhale here

Once the breathalyzer was built, researchers administered it to 813 people who were diagnosed with one of the 17 diseases, as well as 591 controls. These were people from the same locations who did not have those diseases. All of the participants were in China, Israel, France, Latvia or the United States, the researchers said.

Next, the scientists used artificial intelligence to tally up the VOCs in each breath, search a database for diseases showing the same VOC concentration patterns and deliver a diagnosis. [Gallery: The BioDigital Human]

The results were blinded, meaning that, during the analysis, the researchers did not know which condition the participants had. Moreover, the research team verified its results with another method that measured the VOCs in each sample.

The new breathalyzer isn’t ready for the market yet — further testing and better accuracy are needed first — but the study is an encouraging development, the researchers said.

If it’s made available to doctors, the device could be an “affordable, easy-to-use, inexpensive and miniaturized [tool] for personalized screening, diagnosis and follow-up,” the researchers wrote in the study, which was published online Dec. 21 in the journal ACS Nano.

Original article on Live Science.

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How to Make Sauerkraut and Become God of Your Own Microbial Universe

How to Make Sauerkraut and Become God of Your Own Microbial Universe

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t have a single pet. I have billions of them. I’m not joking. I provide for them by feeding them and giving them a comfortable home where they can thrive. As with most pets, I have to put up with their incessant and uninhibited eruptions of gas, but it’s more than worth it for the unconditional love I get from them in return. In my case, that love comes in the form of sauerkraut.

My pets, if you haven’t already figured it out, are the billions of lactobacillus bacteria that have been camping out in crocks and jars on my countertop for the past several weeks. They’ve been eating the shredded cabbage’s natural sugar and converting it into lactic acid and carbon dioxide (hence all that gas). As the lactic acid builds up, the kraut gets increasingly sour, gradually developing into the stuff we love to heap on hot dogs and alongside brats.

I’ve been fermenting foods at home for several years now, from kraut to carrots and cucumbers to hot sauce, and it remains one of my favorite cooking activities. We write a lot about the science of cooking on this site, though most of that is focused on the chemical and physical processes that happen when we do things like salt and heat our foods. Fermentation gets you knee-deep in the biological sciences, and it’s a fun place to be. No longer are you cooking alone—instead, you’re teaming up with an army of friendly microbes, working in tandem to transform and preserve fruits and vegetables. It’s something humans have been doing for millennia, and if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s time you start. I mean, who doesn’t want to be the master of their own microbial universe?

Different Pickles

When we make something like sauerkraut, what we’re really doing is pickling. But it’s not just any pickling: It’s pickling by way of fermentation specifically. This is different from the process of making so-called “quick pickles,” like these, in which a brine made from an acid like vinegar is used to flavor and preserve fresh or par-cooked vegetables. Because of vinegar’s inherent acidity, those vegetables are preserved right away as microbial activity grinds to a halt. (Sugar and salt in the brine also help stop the little critters from surviving.)

With fermented pickles, you don’t add an acid directly to the vegetables. Instead, you let a specific kind of acid-producing bacteria—lactobacillus, in the case of sauerkraut—run wild. Given the right conditions, which I’ll explain below, they’ll do all the work to create the acid for you. This is true of sauerkraut (“sour cabbage” in German), which is pickled shredded cabbage, but it’s equally true of sour dill pickles, kimchi, and even some hot sauces, in which the chili peppers are fermented and then blended to form a smooth sauce. (Tabasco, in case you’re curious, is one example of a fermented hot sauce.)

Kraut is one of the best starting points for trying your hand at fermentation because it’s one of the simplest, since you can make it with nothing more than cabbage and salt. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not much of a leap to try pickles, like kimchi, that include a larger number of ingredients.

How It Works: Sprinkle the Salt, Hold the Oxygen

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Sauerkraut fermenting in a Mason jar with a three-piece fermentation airlock lid.

Lactobacillus bacteria are everywhere. They’re on our skin, in our bodies, and on the fruits and vegetables we buy and eat. They’re generally considered to be “friendly” bacteria, meaning they aren’t harmful to human health and may even be beneficial in some cases.* Some companies sell starter cultures of lactobacillus, which you can add to the crock to help kick off fermentation, but in my experience, this isn’t necessary—there’s more than enough naturally occurring lactobacillus in our environment, so you don’t need to augment it with special products.

* Exactly how beneficial, from what I understand, remains an unresolved question in the dietary sciences, so I won’t speculate much on it here. Lactobacillus-rich foods may do your body some good, or they may not.

Lactobacillus has two important qualities: It can survive in oxygen-free environments, and it can tolerate salt better than many other microorganisms. It’s these two qualities that we exploit to successfully ferment vegetables, like cabbage in kraut.

First, we add enough salt to make life difficult for competing microorganisms. If this were a football league, it’d be like putting liquid heat in the jockstraps of all the players, except the ones on the team we want to win. When it comes to kraut, a level playing field is not what we’re after. This salty environment is just dandy for the lactobacillus, though, paving the way for its total domination over other bacteria.

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While there isn’t full agreement among pickling experts about the perfect amount of salt for the fermentation of sauerkraut, the general rule of thumb is about 2% by weight. That means that for a small, three-pound head of green cabbage, you’d add one ounce of salt. In the metric system, which makes these kinds of calculations much easier, that same head of cabbage weighs about 1,400 grams, and therefore would need 28 grams of salt. Using Diamond Crystal kosher salt, our preferred brand, that comes out to just about three tablespoons for the three-pound head of cabbage. Put another way, that’s about one tablespoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt per pound of cabbage. Please do not make the mistake of using the same volume with other types and brands of salt, as their densities vary—for this reason, weight is by far the more reliable method of measuring. I recommend grabbing a small gram scale to accurately weigh these small quantities.

The salt has an important second role: It draws moisture out of the cabbage’s cells through osmosis, forming a salty brine. Because the cabbage is shredded, its surface area is maximized, meaning that a surprising amount of brine can accumulate even from a juice-free vegetable like cabbage. With the help of some mechanical bruising through kneading and squeezing the cabbage, its cells break down even more, speeding up the release of liquid.

This brine brings us to the second important quality of lactobacillus—its ability to survive in oxygen-free environments. When we submerge the cabbage in its own brine, the lactobacillus and other microorganisms living on it are deprived of oxygen. Many will die as a result, but lactobacillus kicks into anaerobic (oxygen-free) fermentation mode, converting the cabbage’s sugars into lactic acid while creating by-products like carbon dioxide. You’ll know that fermentation is under way when your cabbage starts bubbling and burping.

The main enemy throughout is oxygen, which is why you want to keep your cabbage submerged in the brine the whole time. Sometimes molds can form on the surface of the brine, especially in the early stages, when the cabbage hasn’t fully acidified yet; mold on the surface isn’t ideal, but it’s not a sign that your kraut needs to go in the trash, either. Just carefully scrape it off and proceed as normal. Still, with the help of an airlock, which I’ll describe below, you can reduce the chances of mold forming.

To judge the success of your kraut, your eyes and nose are your best tools. If everything looks okay, and if everything smells okay, everything is okay. What is “okay”? A nice, even color throughout, turning beige and even lightly golden in the later stages, and a pleasantly, lightly funky smell that’s a bit sulfurous but otherwise clean. The cabbage will soften somewhat throughout the process, but it should retain a squeaky, crisp bite, without any sliminess. (And yes, you can taste it along the way to follow its progress.)

Gear

One of the best things about making sauerkraut at home is that it doesn’t require much equipment. All you need is a nonreactive crock or vessel that’s relatively narrow and tall—the less surface area exposed to air, the better, and the easier it is to keep the cabbage below the brine.

I’ve used swing-top glass canning jars before with good results, but while recipe-testing for this story, I tried out a few other devices and have a couple new favorites.

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A classic ceramic fermentation crock.

If you plan on making large batches of sauerkraut and other pickles, it’s worth investing in a real ceramic fermentation crock. I bought a five-liter German-style crock, which comes with stone weights to hold the cabbage down, and was able to easily fit eight pounds of cabbage in it—that’s a lot of kraut. I actually could have packed in another four pounds, while still leaving enough room for things to bubble up without overflowing.

The crock has a couple other advantages, aside from its size and the included weights. First, the ceramic keeps things nice and dark in there, which is good, since light can degrade food over time. Second, it has a water lock for the lid to sit in: Slot the lid into the channel around the crock’s opening, then fill it with water, and it will let air bubble out but not back in. This functions as an airlock, allowing the carbon dioxide to fill up the air space in the crock, and eventually escape, without letting any oxygen-rich air back in. The result is reduced likelihood of mold forming inside. As with any airlock, if you open the vessel up, you’ll break the seal and let oxygen back in; that’s okay, but keep in mind that the mold risk increases the more you do it.

The downside of a large crock is that, well, it’s big, and it requires ample storage space. If you’re not ready for that kind of commitment, I’d recommend fermenting in half-gallon Mason or Ball jars instead. They’re smaller, but also more versatile, since they’re useful for holding plenty of things besides fermented foods.

It’s possible to use the Mason jar with its own lid, burping it occasionally to prevent too much pressure from building up, but I like the ease of specialty lids designed for fermenting. They have airlocks or valves built in, allowing gas to escape while preventing oxygen from seeping back in.

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The Easy Fermenter and glass weights, both made for Mason jars.

Of the kinds I tested, I most liked the Easy Fermenter. It has a slim profile, thanks to a basic rubber valve instead of a bulkier three-piece fermentation airlock, making storage easy. It also has a dial on its surface, with numbers that correspond to the days in a month: Set the dial to the day you start the ferment, and you won’t forget later just how many weeks it’s been going. (This is especially helpful if you plan on fermenting lots of things and risk losing track of when each one started.)

The last bit of gear that I found helpful when using Mason jars was glass fermentation weights. Again, they’re not required, since there are a lot of ways to weigh down the cabbage, but these glass ones fit the jars well and are easy to clean and store. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to rig up your own system for compressing the cabbage, which—I can tell you from experience—doesn’t always work as well as you hope.

Whatever equipment you decide to use, once you have it, it’s time to get fermenting.

Making Sauerkraut: Step by Step

Step 1: Weigh, Then Shred Cabbage

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Start out with nice, tight heads of green cabbage. Weigh the cabbage, then calculate the amount of salt you’ll need based on that. You want 2% salt by weight, so 20 grams of salt for every kilogram of cabbage, or roughly one tablespoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt per pound of cabbage.

Trim and core the cabbage, removing the outermost leaves. (You can discard these, or save them to help hold the shredded cabbage down in the crock later.) Then shred the cabbage, either by hand or using a mandoline or a food processor with its slicing-disk attachment.

Step 2: Add Salt and Spices, Knead, and Squeeze

If you’re using a large ceramic fermentation crock, you can add the shredded cabbage directly to it, sprinkling the salt on and mixing it in intermittently as you fill it up. If you’re using a glass Mason jar, start with the cabbage in a large mixing bowl, sprinkling it with the salt and mixing it well.

Squeeze and knead the cabbage for a few minutes to begin drawing out its liquid, letting it stand in between; I like to cover it while it stands, either with the lid of the crock or with plastic wrap, to prevent the precious brine from evaporating. Every 15 minutes or so, come back and squeeze and knead the cabbage again, helping to release more and more brine.

Exactly how long this will take and how much brine you get will depend on the cabbage you have, but after anywhere from one to four hours, you should have a decent amount of brine built up—enough to cover the cabbage when it’s compressed.

You can also mix in spices now, like caraway seeds, for a more German-style kraut, or juniper, for a more Alsatian style.

If you’re using a Mason jar, now’s the time to transfer the cabbage and its brine to the jar. Try not to pack the jars or crock more than two-thirds full, since the contents tend to bubble up during fermentation. If the vessels are too full, they may overflow.

Step 3: Weight It Down

Push down on the cabbage to compress it; this should force the brine up. If you’re lucky, there will be enough to cover the cabbage by about an inch or so. If not, you’ll need to make some extra brine (which we’ll do in the next step). If you saved those outer cabbage leaves, you can lay them across the top of the shredded cabbage and use the weights on top of that—they can help keep little shreds from sneaking up above the weights. Just make sure all the cabbage, including those leaves, is below the brine.

Step 4: Add Extra Brine, if Necessary

If you don’t have enough natural brine from the cabbage to cover it well, you’ll need to top it up. It’s important that the brine you use maintain the same 2% salinity as the cabbage and its brine. To make it, fill a measuring cup with water, and calculate the salt weight based on that—for every 100 grams of water, you’ll want to add two grams of salt. Now add this saltwater brine to the vessel until the cabbage is well covered.

Some people claim that fluoridated tap water can’t be used for fermentation brines, but I’ve never had a problem. While fluoride may inhibit microbes to some degree, I haven’t found it to be a real impediment to fermentation, at least not with the tap water I use in New York City.

Step 5: Seal and Store in a Cool, Dark Place

Seal your fermenter following its instructions, and keep it in a cool, dark place. Temperature has an effect on fermentation, encouraging some types of bacteria to flourish and others to go dormant. You have some wiggle room here, but somewhere around 65 to 70°F (18 to 21°C) is good for sauerkraut.

Because light can degrade foods over time, as mentioned above, keeping your vessels—especially clear glass ones—in the shade or dark is best.

Step 6: Wait, Then Eat

Now you just have to wait. After a day or two—or three—your kraut should start bubbling and fizzing as the lactobacillus becomes the dominant microbe and starts to plow through the sugars. If your vessel is pretty full, you may want to set it on a rimmed tray, just in case it does bubble over. This is when it will become clear that you have something alive on your hands—a little microbial universe in which you are god.

After a week or so, once the first big push of fermentation has settled down, feel free to open up your crock and sneak a taste. (While also keeping in mind that opening and closing the sealed container increases the chances of molds and such forming—wash your hands and utensils before sticking them in!) If mold does grow on the surface, just carefully skim it off. As god of your kraut, you have a right and a duty to tend to things.

If the cabbage rises above the brine, go ahead and push it back down; if the brine ever seems too low, just make more brine following the same 2% salinity formula, and top it up.

After about three weeks, your sauerkraut should be pretty far along, quite sour to the taste. You can let it go another few weeks, up to about six or so. At that point, it’s a good idea to transfer it to the fridge, where the cold temperatures (combined with the high acidity) will slow any remaining fermentation to a near-standstill.

The kraut will keep for many months in the fridge at this point. If I’m being honest, I’ve kept some for more than a year. It eventually loses its sparkle and starts to taste dull and old; at that point, it’s probably not worth the risk of attempting to eat it, even if that risk is minimal.

When it’s all done, it definitely stops feeling like you have a billion pets and starts feeling like you have a lot of delicious fermented cabbage on your hands. It’s time to make some sausages, grill some hot dogs, or cook up some choucroute. And then recruit your next army of loyal bacteria. There’s a lot of cabbage waiting to be preserved.

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Liam Hemsworth Joins Miley Cyrus For Her Family Christmas Festivities

Liam Hemsworth Joins Miley Cyrus For Her Family Christmas Festivities

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“The Voice” coach’s sister Brandi shared a photo of the whole group, including their dad, Billy Ray (that hair though), and younger sister, Noah, on her Instagram page Tuesday. 

“Cyrus fam Christmas in full swing,” Brandi captioned the photo. 

Miley was clearly happy to be home, but seemed even happier to be spending the holidays with her family’s dogs. She uploaded some adorable photos and videos of herself cuddling with Noah’s pup Sammy and Liam’s dog Dora, whom she helped adopt

There’s nothing quite like being surrounded by your family, dogs and significant other for the holidays. 

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10 Things To Give Up In The New Year

10 Things To Give Up In The New Year

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Life has taught me many lessons, most of which came after the death of my late husband in 2009. Before his death I didn’t notice my lessons, I didn’t tune into the greater musings of our universe. Ironically, death taught me to be alive for perhaps the first time in my entire adult life. I keep relearning many of these lessons again and again. When they are thoroughly learned maybe, they will stop presenting themselves, and I can move on toward bigger and better lessons.

Below I’m sharing with you some of my lessons and the top ten things you should consider giving up going into next year.

People underestimate the power of nutrition in their lives. Everyone is running around, looking for a quick fix for their weight and minimizing the importance of proper nutrition. If you just gave up processed food in 2017, not only would your weight improve but so would your health!!! Giving up processed food is not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be. Just eat real food (lean proteins, veggies, fruits, nuts, etc.), in their natural state as much as possible. You will see and feel the difference!

Moving is key for your health and well-being. Flood your mind and body with positive endorphins every single day. Despite what many fitness professionals will tell you, there is no one perfect way to move that works for everybody. Do what you love because that is what will stick for life. The key is simple movement. A body in motion stays in motion. Aim to sit less in 2017 and move a lot more! Swim, walk, run, lift weights, do yoga or go for a hike. It doesn’t matter what you do, just keep moving.

When I finally hit rock bottom in 2009 with my personal weight, there was one key element that made all the difference. I gave up my excuses, and I gave up waiting. What I learned in the process is that it was so much more work to hate myself and make excuses than it ever was to do the hard work to change. When I stopped putting off my health and fitness, I learned it took much less time to buckle down and live fit than it ever took to procrastinate and hated myself daily. Stop waiting on the things you want to happen in your life.

We are all so busy in life, but one thing I’ve learned is that much of my busyness is self-created. I put so many unnecessary things on my daily schedule, and that leads to being overwhelmed and being unhappy. Simplify in the New Year, remember that NO is an acceptable answer and cut the busyness. Change your priorities and put the critical stuff at the top like your health and fitness, your family, your interpersonal relationships and your happiness. Don’t be busy with things that don’t improve your life.

We all have regret in this life but if we focus on what could have happened or what we should have done then we can’t find joy in where we are. Don’t live your life with the “should’ve and could’ve” because you can’t go back and change the past. Make peace with each day and pat yourself on the back for all you accomplished. Living with regret is useless and a waste of your present moment. Do your best each day, improve where you can when you can and then give up the feelings of guilt and inadequacies.

I’m a people pleaser by nature, but I’ve learned that there is no way I can make everyone happy. Not everyone is going to agree with me. Not everyone is going to like me. That’s okay. My personal motto is to be a good person, do the right thing but also do what makes me happy. Own your life and learn that pleasing everyone is just not realistic.

We all have fears in this life, but when we let fear rule our lives, we limit our full potential. Give up the fears that take your energy and remember you shouldn’t stress what you can’t control. My loss taught me to let go of many fears, and it’s also taught me to live my dreams despite the things that scare me because life is short and we should live it.

Nature is a healer, but we tend to spend so much time indoors we forget that feeling better can be as simple as stepping outside. This year, aim to head outside and take in the fresh air, the beautiful views and the healing power of nature. Combine your daily movement with your time outside for a double benefit and leave the electronics at home. You will find that the time in nature will allow you to hear your inner voice if you don’t drown it out with artificial noise. While you outside try deep breathing several times for full body cleansing.

The weight of stuff takes so much joy out of our lives and makes us feel heavy. Declutter in 2017 and find your comfort in having less. When your joy comes from purchasing stuff, you will find that you are never truly satisfied. Your brain gets the immediate stimulus of a new object that fades quickly. You are consistently trying to up the ante and keep that stimulus going. Instead find joy in giving to others, purging your life of clutter and spending time improving your life through fitness, nutrition, and self-growth.

Social media has helped our society in many regards, but it has also hurt our collective communities. We are consistently comparing our lives with the lives of others. Remember that people only put their highlights on social media. You aren’t getting the full story. I’m here to tell you, no matter what you read on social media, nobody has a perfect life. Everyone has difficulties, everyone has problems, everyone has pain.

Just these simple changes can lead to a fantastic and healthy 2017.

I hope you have a great New Year!

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The Surgeon General’s Report on E-Cigarettes: Quitters & Starters

The Surgeon General’s Report on E-Cigarettes: Quitters & Starters

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Jan. 7, 2016 — A report on e-cigarettes released at the end of last year by the US Surgeon General’s office shows a number of risks related to the popular product — particularly regarding young people — that should make them a lot less popular, but likely won’t. The act of “vaping” is often thought of as a safer alternative to smoking, but that’s not necessarily the case. Here are the dangers and potential dangers people should be paying attention to related to e-cigarettes:

E-cigs are at the center of one of the most contentious debates in public health. The availability and appeal of using e-cigs as an alternative to smoking cigarettes has been growing quickly over the years for both those who are new to smoking, as an introductory product, and to those who are trying to quit smoking, who see it as a more “healthful” way of trying to kick the smoking habit.

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However, e-cigs don’t solve the nicotine problem at all. Yes, e-cigs eliminate tar, and yes, e-cigs eliminate the tobacco — both dangerous elements to one’s health. And that’s definitely good. But what they do not eliminate is the critical element of nicotine. Nicotine is one of the most highly addictive substances on earth. It’s presented in a liquid and then vaporized form in an e-cig; you inhale through the e-cig, and as you inhale, the nicotine and other substances in the liquid are atomized and absorbed into your lungs. The nicotine in an e-cig is a lot more concentrated and potent.

For those who have never smoked and who are interested in the experience, e-cigs are an entry-level product that have been promoted and marketed as being safe. They’re not. They may be “safer” than cigarettes, but that’s only by degree.

While a new “vaper” isn’t exposed to the other substances of tar and tobacco such as are found in a normal cigarette, he or she is getting concentrated and more potent doses of nicotine. That’s not good. And we’re seeing younger and younger people trying these. Also not good. The e-cig “e-liquid,” which is what produces the vapor that users inhale and exhale, are marketed in an array of flavors that appeal to younger users — junior high and high school age kids — they’re available for order online, and you’re getting addicted right away to the habit of using nicotine. The flavors available boggle the imagination: bubble gum, banana, “Mother’s MIlk,” blueberry-lemon, banana cinnamon nutbread, pomegranate, strawberry — it goes on endlessly. These teenagers — and even younger children — are getting addicted early, which could lead to smoking, and e-cigs can easily become a gateway to trying and developing an addiction to more serious drugs. Addiction correlates to crime. People need to feed their habit, they break into homes to steal things to resell, they commit robberies on the streets, all to get money to feed their addiction. Ultimately they make some very poor choices and place themselves in very dangerous situations.

We may see less cancer as a result of e-cig use, because the tobacco and tar are gone. But we won’t be able to tell that for years or decades to come. Remember there are other chemicals mixed in with the nicotine in the solution that also could cause cancer down the road. The liquid that becomes vaporized in e-cigs, which you inhale and exhale in a cloud of vapor, contains not only nicotine but an array of other substances, such as propylene glycol, glycerine, flavorings and sometimes components like diacetyl, acetyl propionyl, benzaldehyde and the less-threatening sounding vanillin. We know that dactyl produces popcorn lung — a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways.

If you’re trying to quit smoking, remember the key drug, nicotine, is still very much available through an e-cig and at much higher, concentrated doses. So while you will be eliminating the tar and tobacco of a cigarette, you’re amping up the accessibility of nicotine. That’s not exactly a great way to wean yourself from something harmful — to add more of it to your system.

We’re seeing a lot more nicotine toxicity. For example, little babies we see in the emergency room — sometimes they get a hold of a cigarette and they chew on it, which is usually not that harmful. But if they get a hold of an e-cigarette and ingest some of that liquid nicotine, which again is so concentrated in an e-cig form, we see nausea, vomiting seizures, paralysis — bad things.

Being that the nicotine is one of the most addictive substances, it’s not really helping you quit your addiction, it’s not the path to accomplishing that. And we’re seeing younger and younger people getting into it.

An Alternative to Smoking

There is a rising “connoisseur-ship” that’s evolved in the world of vaping in which vapers discuss vaping in the same way that wine aficionados discuss the nuances of whatever wine they are drinking. That’s great, but that doesn’t lessen the dangers outlined above.

Are vapers listening? Not really. In 2013, e-cigarette-related sales were $1.7 billion, which was double what they were in 2012. In 2015, those sales had risen to $2.9 billion. Many tobacco manufacturers also are in the e-cigarette game. More than 250 e-cig brands are on the market.

Perhaps this Surgeon General’s report will help refocus attention on the dangers of e-cigarettes and give people enough of a reason to take a pass at the growing trend of vaping.

For more about Dr. Sudip Bose, MD, please go to SudipBose.com and visit his nonprofit TheBattleContinues.org where 100% of donations go directly to injured veterans

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Sous Vide Poached Shrimp

Sous Vide Poached Shrimp

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Shrimp cooked by traditional methods can be fantastic, but nailing the perfect temperature can be a bit hit or miss. With a sous vide cooker, you don’t have this issue because that short window of time between perfect and overcooked stretches out to a good half hour or so. Sous vide also allows you to achieve textures that you can’t really achieve through more traditional methods and affords you the opportunity to infuse the shrimp with flavor while they cook. This recipe delivers basic poached-style shrimp, like the kind you’d serve chilled in a shrimp cocktail.

Sous Vide Shrimp Cooking Temperature

125°F (52°C) Translucent, semi-raw with a soft, buttery texture.
130°F (54°C) Nearly opaque, very tender with a hint of firmness.
135°F (57°F) Barely opaque, moist, juicy, and tender.
140°F (60°C) Traditional poached texture with good bounce and a crisp, juicy bite.

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Carrie Fisher’s Books Were ‘Wiped Out By Demand,’ So They’re Being Reprinted

Carrie Fisher’s Books Were ‘Wiped Out By Demand,’ So They’re Being Reprinted

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The actress proved herself a prolific writer in her lifetime and, according to her publisher Simon & Schuster, her books have seen a massive uptick in sales since her death.

“All of them have remained in print, but our supply was wiped out by demand. We’ll have more books this week,” Karp told EW.

David M. Benett via Getty Images

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Finding Solid Ground

Finding Solid Ground

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John’s father had built their home when John was a boy. It was perched on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea and John wanted to stay there as long as possible. But over the years, the ocean had worn away the shore and compromised the integrity of the foundation. No amount of repair could hide the fact that John would have to live elsewhere. He faced a heartbreaking but essential turning point in his life. He had to find more solid ground.

In the geography of a life, there are times when what once was solid starts to shift, because life as we know it has evolved and changed in some deep way that no longer supports us. There are times when the integrity of our foundation is compromised and we have to find new footing.

A shift of foundation can appear in many ways: the banks of a river can crumble as the river gets stronger, the shore of a marriage can be carved out by the tide of time, the trunk of self-identity can be wormed of its strength, and our secret ambition can open like a dandelion that in time will drop its petals and turn to mulch. It doesn’t mean that the banks of the river, or the shore of the marriage, or the ground of identity, or the goal we worked toward, was faulty or false. Each simply evolved, as rivers and mountains and dunes change over time.

During this last year, I had to accept that the ground of a long-term friendship was no longer solid. Like John who didn’t want to leave his father’s house, I kept trying repair after repair, not wanting to accept that the integrity of our foundation had been compromised. Too many storms and not enough trust. It was heartbreaking but I had to find more solid ground. The house of our friendship was magnificent when she and I had built it. I still remember the view. But we’re constantly asked to stay current with what is solid and authentic, to stay close to what will sustain us and help us live. Listening for when relationships and dreams begin to shift–for when they’re no longer foundational–requires an honesty that can take years to understand and accept.

A Question to Walk With: Describe something dear you had to let go of–a home, a friendship, a way of thinking or being–because it had ceased to be life-giving. How did you become aware of the change? How did you accept the truth of the situation? How did you let this dear thing go?

Recently, Sounds True published a major collection of my poetry, The Way Under the Way, which contains three separate books of poetry, gathering 217 poems retrieved and shaped over the past twenty years. These poems span my life’s journey and they center on the place of true meeting that is always near, where we chance to discover our shared humanity and common thread of Spirit. The above poem is from the book.

For more poetry for the soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.

This Blogger’s Books and Other Items from…

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How To Get Through Engagement Season Without Losing Friends

How To Get Through Engagement Season Without Losing Friends

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It’s the most wonderful time of year! No no, not the holidays – well, ok that too – it’s engagement season! Squeeee!

Yes, that’s really a thing. Engagement season begins on Thanksgiving and continues through Valentine’s day. Since we are already in the thick of it, let’s all take a minute to review some of the ground rules around all this question-popping, news-sharing, ring-selfie hullabaloo.

You’re engaged!

If you are one of the lucky heart-eyed lovers who just got engaged – or suspect it’s coming soon – it is important that you don’t let your excitement, the twinkle of that massive sparkler or too many bubbles overtake you.

DO share news with those closest to you in person or by phone/FaceTime before making it Facebook official.

DON’T lose your fabulous self by immediately turning into a smug, diamond flashing diva who talks about nothing but wedding diets, dresses and china patterns.

DO think about your single or recently heartbroken friends when sharing your happy news. Remember they will genuinely be happy for you but they might not be able to muster up the response you’re looking for.

DON’T post 73,627 close-ups of your new ring.

Or if you’re on the receiving end of the news…

Whether you are single or coupled up, when you hear that someone you love just got engaged, you may go through a roller coaster of emotions.

You might be more excited than they are.

Or you might feel the need to muster a little more enthusiasm than you feel.

You might immediately be concerned about the potential bridesmaids dress.

Or you might just want to burst into tears.

It’s all perfectly normal. Just roll with it. Here are a few tips to help you through:

DO try to show some genuine excitement. Be supportive! You can cry into your pillow or bang your head against the wall later.

DON’T immediately ask about a date, location and wedding party draft picks.

DON’T make it all about you. No matter how much you want to.

Remember, if all else fails:

Happy engagement season!!!

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