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Happy Quarantine-iversary! How to Celebrate the Positives That Arose from the Chaos.

It’s been a year since life as we knew it imploded, leaving us scrambling to keep up with the new rules and restrictions left in its wake. Let’s be honest; this is an anniversary none of us feel like celebrating. And even if we did, we still can’t throw a party anyway.

In the past, we’ve expended effort to nurture our relationships, willing them to blossom into something wonderful—something worth celebrating at least once a year. When it came to quarantine, we wanted to initiate a break-up the moment it arrived. And we wished it away over too many glasses of wine and bags of potato chips.

While the pandemic stole many of our liberties—like the ability to hug our loved ones, walk through a store unmasked, and enjoy dining in a restaurant with friends—it hasn’t been all bad.

Quarantine has forced us to slow down and appreciate things many of us didn’t have time to enjoy previously, like spending time with family, cooking healthy meals, and getting outside to exercise. See, it hasn’t been ALL bad!

As we celebrate our quarantine-iversary, let’s take a moment to look back and appreciate all the pros that have come from this difficult time. Here are five important positives that came out of a pretty bleak year:

  1.  Uninterrupted Family Time Remember all those times you had to say “no” to your children’s pleas to play? As annoying as it was, lockdown provided us with a great gift—the ability to finally say “yes.” As our work lives shifted to makeshift home offices and our kids’ schools moved to the kitchen table, we were forced to be together 24-7. The time we once wasted on commuting and shuttling kids to school and sports could now be spent playing board games, eating as a family, or taking afternoon naps together on the couch.
  2. Opportunities to Cook Healthy Meals Having more free time has also allowed us to spend more time experimenting in the kitchen. While pre-pandemic us may have turned to mac and cheese or a frozen pizza for a quick dinner on busy nights, the quarantined us have had plenty of time to learn new, healthier recipes. Whether it was the Instagram-famous veggie rice balls or the sourdough bread, people spent weeks getting right, most of us enjoyed having extra time to create tasty meals at home.
  3. Boosting our Workout Routine When gyms closed a year ago, we were forced to take our health into our own hands (and feet). While many of us rejoiced in having a legitimate excuse to forgo a workout, it didn’t take long for our bodies to crave more exercise.

We learned the importance of sticking to a fitness routine and continuing with important regimes of stretching to reduce tension and keep our joints moving well. Online classes and virtual classes offered by The Vital Stretch helped us stay limber.

Good weather forced us outside to breathe in fresh air (a.k.a. forest bathing) and escape the confines of our homes. This, in turn, enhanced our moods as well as our physical health, something which has been proven time and again, most recently in a study published in the Journal Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine.

  1. Instituting Tech-Free Hours Children’s screen time has nearly doubled during the pandemic, and ours isn’t far behind. Instituting breaks from technology can help us to destress, improve our focus, and increase happiness. Instead of spending all of our time online, we’ve learned to occupy ourselves in fun, old-fashioned ways. A resurgence in puzzle-building, for instance, has been noticed over the past year. Coloring books and paint-by-number kits (for adults as well as kids) can also help us relax and train our brains. Not a fan of time-consuming crafts? Play a board game, break out the cards, or have a dance party in your living room.
  2. Reconnecting with old Friends Despite being isolated, quarantine has, ironically, caused us to become more social with old friends, albeit from a distance. With so much extra time and an impressive array of technology on hand, reconnecting has never been easier. Whether we write long letters (remember how exciting it was to receive mail), spend time catching up on Zoom, or gab for hours on the landline, rekindling old friendships is both soothing and rewarding.
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5 Easy Ways to be More Mindful

Wishing 2020 would take a hike? You’re not alone. This year has certainly presented us with a bunch of new challenges. From the coronavirus to social unrest to wildfires to a dramatic presidential race, there are plenty of things we wish would go away and never come back.

With so many struggles to face this year, it can be hard to find things to be thankful for. So much negativity can also make it tough to keep on top of healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. We’ve found the key to combatting all this pessimism—mindfulness.

According to www.mindful.org, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

In other words, being mindful means paying attention to the “now” of the moment and shutting out the stressful static surrounding your life. Here are five easy ways to become more mindful today:

  1. Head to the Woods. Breathing fresh air can be enough to clear the proverbial cobwebs from your mind, especially if you wander through the woods. A Japanese study of 60 young women found that a brief walk in a forest helped them feel more relaxed, comfortable, and happy.

According to the researchers, this simple task resulted in massive benefits including, reduced tension and anxiety, increased energy, and lower feelings of depression and hostility. No forest around? Don’t sweat it! Head to your nearest park or tree-lined street. 

  1. Focus on Your Surroundings. Instead of worrying about things that are out of your control (we see you, COVID-19), focus on your immediate surroundings. When taking that walk through the woods, focus on the trees bursting with autumn’s most vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues instead of any stressors.
  2. Meditate. Clear your mind of worries by meditating. Sit quietly in a comfortable spot (preferably a place where the kids won’t find you). Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and relax your shoulders and arms. Breathe in slowly through your nose, counting to 3, and out for the same count. Even five minutes is long enough to help you feel more positive and refreshed.
  3. Be fully present. When’s the last time you slowed down and took a break by yourself? Stop the excuses and set aside a few minutes each day to be present in your environment. Become hyper-aware of your feelings (physical and emotional) and senses (what do you see, smell, taste, hear, or feel). If you’re eating ice cream, for instance, home in on each of your senses while you enjoy the treat. Let everything else take a backseat for a while.
  4. Be Kind to Yourself. It’s easy to come down on ourselves, especially when we’re stressed. Instead of thinking of all the things we dislike about ourselves, focus on the parts you love. Maybe you’re super funny, a good cook, a loyal friend, or a talented musician?

No matter what your strengths are, celebrate them, and spend more time finding those many other attributes you don’t often recognize. Researchers at Princeton University found the higher your self-confidence, the bigger your motivation to succeed in life. 

5 Easy Ways to be More Mindful

Wishing 2020 would take a hike? You’re not alone. This year has certainly presented us with a bunch of new challenges. From the coronavirus to social unrest to wildfires to a dramatic presidential race, there are plenty of things we wish would go away and never come back.

With so many struggles to face this year, it can be hard to find things to be thankful for. So much negativity can also make it tough to keep on top of healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. We’ve found the key to combatting all this pessimism—mindfulness.

According to www.mindful.org, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

In other words, being mindful means paying attention to the “now” of the moment and shutting out the stressful static surrounding your life. Here are five easy ways to become more mindful today:

  1. Head to the Woods. Breathing fresh air can be enough to clear the proverbial cobwebs from your mind, especially if you wander through the woods. A Japanese study of 60 young women found that a brief walk in a forest helped them feel more relaxed, comfortable, and happy.

According to the researchers, this simple task resulted in massive benefits including, reduced tension and anxiety, increased energy, and lower feelings of depression and hostility. No forest around? Don’t sweat it! Head to your nearest park or tree-lined street. 

  1. Focus on Your Surroundings. Instead of worrying about things that are out of your control (we see you, COVID-19), focus on your immediate surroundings. When taking that walk through the woods, focus on the trees bursting with autumn’s most vibrant red, orange, and yellow hues instead of any stressors.
  2. Meditate. Clear your mind of worries by meditating. Sit quietly in a comfortable spot (preferably a place where the kids won’t find you). Close your eyes, focus on your breath, and relax your shoulders and arms. Breathe in slowly through your nose, counting to 3, and out for the same count. Even five minutes is long enough to help you feel more positive and refreshed.
  3. Be fully present. When’s the last time you slowed down and took a break by yourself? Stop the excuses and set aside a few minutes each day to be present in your environment. Become hyper-aware of your feelings (physical and emotional) and senses (what do you see, smell, taste, hear, or feel). If you’re eating ice cream, for instance, home in on each of your senses while you enjoy the treat. Let everything else take a backseat for a while.
  4. Be Kind to Yourself. It’s easy to come down on ourselves, especially when we’re stressed. Instead of thinking of all the things we dislike about ourselves, focus on the parts you love. Maybe you’re super funny, a good cook, a loyal friend, or a talented musician?

No matter what your strengths are, celebrate them, and spend more time finding those many other attributes you don’t often recognize. Researchers at Princeton University found the higher your self-confidence, the bigger your motivation to succeed in life.