Being Present

 

Credit: Pinterest

Last week I came across the above quote and it really spoke to me. Being physically present and being mentally present have two completely different definitions. Lately I have been feeling the absence of deep, meaningful conversations in my life and I yearn for that void to be filled.

I cannot remember the last time a phone wasn’t pulled out at some point during a conversation. When hanging out with a group of friends all it takes is one person to pick up their phone and everyone feels obligated to check theirs too. We have grown accustomed to the presence of technology and it is getting harder and harder to be fully present in day to day life. The truth about technology is saddening because no one my age knows how to entertain themselves without a screen. Someone whip out Yahtzee or Pictionary, PLEASE.

It may seem ridiculous to live without technology but pulling back from constant screen use is a great way to slow down your brain. Lock your phone and instead pass some time by reading, journaling or drawing…unleash the creativity! Once enough time is focused in a more constructive place than the depths of someone’s Instagram page a feeling of relaxation arises. There will always be time to be engrossed in social media but I hope more than anything that young people can learn to stay present in the more simple joys of life.

When having a conversation, I try to remind myself to continuously look someone in the eye and ask questions about what they are saying. That is the best way to show your true interest in another person. It is just too easy to get lost behind a screen when the world is going by around us. We walk around engrossed in the latest Tasty video or Snapchat story, completely oblivious to the beauty passing by with every step.

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It may seem impossible to go a full day without your phone but the experience will allow you to see the world a little differently. You don’t need that perfectly staged Snapchat video or Instagram story to show that you are having fun with your friends. There is definitely pressure in our world today about posting constantly to ensure that your followers know you are maintaining an interesting life. Your friends that you are hanging out with already know how much fun you are. Pictures and videos are great, but soaking in the memories with your eyes and ears is more organic and fulfilling.

It is always great to snap some pics of a new place or some cool food, but save the editing and posting until after in order to enjoy the rest of the day. People always seemed surprised when I say I left my phone at home for the day or night; it’s like a security blanket that is thought to be a necessity when I can function just as well without it.

Right now you are looking at a screen, as are billions of people around the world. Try taking a breather from all the screens and pay attention to the beautiful details all around you because the world is a lot more interesting than the Instagram popular page.

I snapped this pic before embarking on a beautiful walk down the beach a few weeks ago. Left my phone in the car (:

 

The Best Ways to Soothe Your Sunburn

For anyone that’s as pale as me, going to the beach can sometimes turn into a nightmare. What starts as a fun day hanging out with friends by the water can quickly turn into a week of looking like a lobster, which is something I always dread come summer. Besides the fact that a sunburn can look super embarrassing, it can also damage your skin. The best trick I could give you to avoid the redness is to not get burnt at all (carrying around a bottle of SPF 30 is always the way to go,) but we are all guilty of neglecting our skin until it’s too late. So, if you’re like me and are constantly in denial about how easily you burn and are now regretting it, here are some tricks I’ve picked up for soothing your sunburn as soon as possible:

Whip out the aloe vera

I know this is a basic tip that (hopefully) everyone knows by now, but that’s because it’s so effective. One of the worst parts of a sunburn is feeling like you are radiating heat and an aloe vera ointment (a cooling agent) combats that. It’s important to stay as cool as possible when you have a burn without drying your skin (which could irritate it further.) Aloe vera is the best of both worlds in this case, and I would recommend always having a bottle laying around your bathroom. Alternatively, holding a cold  compress against affected areas can also be very soothing.

Take a cold shower or bath

This tip is similar to the first one, since it’s all about keeping yourself cool. The water doesn’t have to be freezing, but should be slightly colder than you’re used to in order to take the extra body heat into account. Nothing can be worse on a sunburn than continued exposure to heat, whether it comes in the form of sunlight or shower water, so try your best to switch up your regular shower routine to soothe the pain.

Take an OTC pain reliever or anti-inflammatory if pain is extreme

Although this is only really necessary in situations where the pain is unbearable, an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen can be extremely helpful in easing the pain of a bad burn. In addition to relieving pain, an anti-inflammatory can also take down some of the swelling and push the healing process of a sunburn. Do not be fooled, though; medication can only do so much, and you have to give the skin time to heal at its own pace. A sunburn is a sunburn, and there isn’t a magic pill that can change that.

Stay out of the sun!

This is perhaps the most important point I can make. You don’t have to become a hermit or anything, but if you have a bad sunburn, you should keep it out of the sun for as long as possible. More exposure to the sun could only serve to irritate the affected spots and either worsen the existing burn, or burn you in a different place. If you must go outside, wear loose, long clothing that covers the burns. In this case, your go-to of leggings and skinny jeans are a definite no.

Cry More, it’s Good for You

Photo by: Christian Franke

Crying does not correlate to weakness. Navigating your own emotions is not an easy feat and it takes time to understand what you are feeling. There are some things you feel that you may never be able to explain. Though sometimes it can be difficult to feel like your tears are validated, crying is always worth it and necessary.

Obviously everyone cries, but I think the more crying the better. I have been thinking about this concept a lot lately because I am a very emotional person and I have learned not to think too much when my emotions get the best of me. If I am holding back tears, my stomach starts to turn and I feel my chest getting heavy.  As stated by an article on AgingCare, crying is a natural response to negative emotions and a natural way to reduce emotional stress. There is a reason you feel more relaxed after a good cry! I can understand some people not wanting to let their guard down in front of others, but sometimes it is necessary. No matter how stupid you may think your crying is, it is not stupid. Your emotions don’t lie and you should listen to what they are saying. Crying is a good way to relieve stress and stay aware of yourself and what your body needs to recover from the tears to get to a happier mindset.

Another reason to let the tears flow, it’s good for your eyesight! According to an article on MedBroadcast, the moisture caused from crying helps keep your vision clear because it lubricates your eyes. Studies have also been done that show some people are more prone to crying than others if you are empathetic and relate to other people’s suffering. I am 100% a part of this category and there are pros and cons to being this type of person. Being emotional is not a flaw and I accept that quality with open arms and if you are like me, you should learn to love it to. Crying a lot is something that I wasn’t always comfortable with, but I realized that it made me feel good so why should I fight it? It feels so good to let all of the tension in your body go and be content with being upset. Even the happiest person has to let out the tears.

Keeping your sadness bottled up inside creates more tension and can lead to a bigger blow up in the future. Whether you feel tears coming on in public or when you’re alone, don’t be scared to let it out. When I am with someone who is upset I encourage them to just cry it out because it will help them feel better. No one should feel embarrassed or scared to cry when they feel that intense emotion no matter where they are or who they are with. If you haven’t cried on the T at least once….do you even live in Boston?

It may take one cry, two cries or thirty to feel better. However many tears it takes to help you feel better. Don’t question how you feel, but learn how to recover from the sadness. Listening to music may help calm you down, going for a walk in the fresh air, talking to someone you trust, or maybe just being alone and winding down. Find what makes you feel good and run with it. Though no one likes seeing anyone cry, it is important to encourage the tears if someone is holding back so they can experience the relief that follows. Crying is therapeutic, amazing, helpful, and emotional all at once.

The next time you feel tears welling up, welcome them with open arms. Happy tears, angry tears, sad tears…whatever it might be, let it flow and you will feel a lot better afterwards.  

Why Yoga is the Key

Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean running ten miles to feel good about yourself. Why run when you can do yoga to feel just as good physically and mentally? Yoga is one of the greatest forms of exercise because it is both physically and mentally satisfying. The intense focus on mentality is why I love yoga so much. I feel rejuvenated after, not exhausted. I want to go to yoga, I don’t dread this type of exercise. Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise and yoga is a wonderful outlet to strengthen your brain.

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You may only be at downward dog right now, but pretty soon you could be bending like a pretzel.

Yoga is all about focus. Forgetting about work, relationships and any other responsibilities to focus on your body and mind. Yoga is the only time I am allowed to focus on just myself, how my body is moving and allowing my mind to focus on keeping my breathing deep and steady to relax my mind. It is also a great technique to help sleeping problems because the breathing techniques can be implied if there is trouble falling asleep. Yoga breathing has helped me many,many times with sleep when my mind is too cluttered to think about resting.

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Yoga allows you to relax your body and mind to create a better you. What I love about yoga is how breathing is a centric part of all classes. Deep breathing is an amazing tool to use in times of stress, pain, anger, fear…the list goes on. Once I began practicing yoga regularly, it became easier to apply the breathing techniques and notice a change in how I handled tense situations. You don’t realize how many benefits there are to yoga until you find yourself in public stretching out your shoulders or letting out a deep breath.

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Another great aspect of yoga is stress relief. The breathing paired with stretching will wash all the stress away and allow you to relax your body and mind. Yoga moves tend to focus on relieving tension from the shoulders and back, which is where stress builds up in your body. Stress can build up quickly in your body without you even realizing it. This can lead to pulled muscles and other health complications like chronic stress which is more serious. Yoga allows you to stretch out all of your muscles and replace any pain caused by stress with soothing relief and comfort.

 

More experienced yogis can do intense backbends and splits but don’t feel pressured to match their expertise right away. It takes time to increase flexibility, but it is possible for you to get there! Dancers tend to have impeccable posture because they are stretching and increasing their flexibility constantly. Yoga can have the same results!! Weekly stretches and poses will strengthen the muscles in your back and shoulders, which will lead to better posture. This could take a few weeks, or maybe a couple of months. The benefits of breathing techniques will be present almost immediately, but don’t give up on the physical benefits which will take some more time. Consistency is key! Whether that means five minutes of breathing everyday, or 20 minutes of new poses and stretching, it is all positive for your mind and soul. Letting out stress while increasing flexibility…double benefit!

The BEST part about yoga?? You can be your own teacher! There are dozens of YouTube tutorials and apps you can download that will guide you through stretches and breathing techniques to get you started. Once you get the hang of it, you can start doing it alone! Just 10-15 minutes every day can do a world of difference for your body and mind. I can say all I want about yoga, but you have to try it yourself to experience the benefits.

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Good luck and namaste!

Fun and Cheap Adventures for Summer 2017

If you’re anything like me, you like trying new things and visiting new places. Even if you aren’t as inclined to branch out, summer is a great time to try new things and visit new places. New adventures don’t necessarily require lots of money and preparation, you can have a lot of fun in and around your hometown to spice up your summer and discover some hidden gems. Trust me, growing up in a small town has forced me to get very creative when I’m bored.

Whether you’re bored on a rainy day, or sick of going to the beach on your day off, these ideas can help you find something different to do this summer.

Public Parks

Acadia National Park

The best vacation I have ever been on was to a national park. Last summer my family visited Acadia National Park in Maine, and the sights were breathtaking. I have never seen such natural beauty and it made me want to go on a national park road trip. Wherever you live in the world, there are public parks, hiking trails, and lakes that many people don’t know about. A lot of them are free entry, too! If there is a daily fee, the money goes back into environmental efforts to keep the parks open and thriving.

There are numerous parks in Massachusetts alone, and thousands across the country. Many offer kayak and canoe rentals, camping grounds, and scenic walking trails. Parks are a great way to bring out your inner adventurer and spend time outside.

They are also perfect for your furry friends to enjoy.

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Aren’t into climbing mountains? Have no fear! Pack up a nice lunch and go sit by a beautiful lake or overlook, I promise you will not be disappointed. Lunch with a view is always a good idea.

Parks can be packed during the summer, but there are multiple trails so nothing ever feels too crowded. Getting out into nature is great physically, but also mentally. The warm summer air and the sound of birds chirping in the trees creates a natural zen environment. There is something so peaceful about sitting in a quiet park and taking a step back from a fast paced life. Every time I visit a park I feel happier and more relaxed when I leave.

Secret Beaches

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If you live near the ocean, I’m sure you’re familiar with the local beaches. But do you know all of small, secret beaches that aren’t crowded with a million umbrellas and coolers?

I am living on Cape Cod for the summer and I have started to discover multiple tiny beaches that are nearly empty. Most don’t even have parking lots and consist of a tiny path on the side of the road that leads to a little slice of heaven.

These beaches can be tricky to look up online because people like keeping their secret sanctuaries private, so doing field research may be your best bet. They are usually close to public beaches, unmarked and down a side road. Getting to them is an adventure in itself but once you reach the destination the serenity is well worth the journey. If there isn’t a sign that says “Private Property,” put your towel down and make yourself at home.

One of my favorite “private” beaches on Cape Cod.

When you find a place like this, shhhhh! It’s a secret beach for a reason!

Give your tastebuds something new and different

Coconut latte from Jaho Coffee

One of my favorite things to do over the summer is try to find the hidden gems of the food world. They are everywhere! So many restaurants in the U.S. are inspired by places all across the world, bringing an international food experience right to your hometown. Yelp is a great place to start and gives a reliable outline of what kinds of dishes to expect. It is particularly helpful to read reviews of dishes you aren’t used to before making the trip.

I like branching out to find different food because it is easy to get sick of the same things. I fell in love with Indian cuisine through my summer research and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to go to somewhere so new and different with so many amazing flavors I have never experienced before. My taste buds were happily surprised.

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Picky eaters can enjoy new food too, most places can create dishes that are fairly mild if that is what you’re comfortable with. No matter what kind of cuisine you are trying, try to choose something on the menu that sounds different and exciting. If you discover you really like it, try making it yourself at home! Fill this summer with new food adventures and maybe discover a new love for cooking.

Grabbing some friends and visiting a funky place for dinner is an awesome adventure and summer is the perfect time for it.

Unusual Sports

The category of sports encompasses a lot more than baseball and football. No running is involved, just fun! Whether it’s ziplining, whitewater rafting or bubble soccer, there are many wacky activities out there to try this summer.  

One place I have really been wanting to go the past year or so is a treetop adventure park near my house. Definitely find one of these places near you if you want to feel like a monkey! This park is a course of ziplines, tightropes, rope walls and more. It has been built in the woods so you really feel like you’re a tree animal! I went ziplining once before in New Hampshire and absolutely loved it and I am yearning to check this place out.

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Bubble soccer is another funny one that has become somewhat recreational in the Boston area. Once you put on the “bubble” you look like a hamster ball with legs. It is hilarious to watch but looks like it would be so much fun to try. There are locations and variations of this activity all across the U.S. and it would be perfect to rent some for a party, or just for fun with friends!

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The Zoo

The zoo is so underrated. I absolutely love the zoo. You can find me there, standing next to a seven year old, just as excited as they are to see the giraffes walking around. They are fairly cheap to visit and showcase amazing, exotic creatures.

If you live near Washington D.C., the Smithsonian National Zoo is free!! It also happens to be the best zoo I have ever been to…they have giant pandas, lions, elephants, and so much more.

Giant Panda at the Smithsonian Zoo.

The zoo is a great summer day trip, and I definitely recommend going on a weekday if you can because it is a lot less crowded and easier to get up close to all of the animals. Some zoos also allow you to bring in your own food and drinks, so you can save money by packing snacks from home.

In addition to the zoo, go to the aquarium! So many beautifully colored fish, penguins, seals, and other water creatures that are amazing to see up close. The aquarium is a perfect adventure for a rainy day.

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I hope this list helps you kickstart an amazing, adventurous, memorable summer. (:

 

How to Upgrade Your Favorite Unhealthy Foods

I hate to break it to you, but we all have a curse. It’s the curse of unhealthy food. Tell me you haven’t walked past a Wendy’s and audibly gasped. Or walked into a Starbucks, planning on just getting a tall iced coffee, and accidentally gotten a grande Mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream. Or sat in an UNO’s and felt your mouth actually water at the smell of pizza. So it’s true then; we are all cursed. But, you can trick your stomach. It’s possible to break this curse and “healthify” your favorite unhealthy foods.

Frappuccinos

How deliciously refreshing is an ice-cold, frothy frappuccino on a hot summer day? Well, did you know that a grande Mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream is 378 calories and and has 47.1 grams of sugar? Yikes! I know it’s easy to disguise the calories in our Starbucks orders because, well, they’re just coffee right? Wrong. Unfortunately, they’re closer to a milkshake. But it’s so easy to make your own frappuccino that is way healthier! Replace that whole milk with skim milk (or half and half if you can’t let go quite so much). Whipped cream and syrup alone could be the cause of an extra 150 to 200 calories! Swap out the syrup for more natural sweeteners; a combination of vanilla extract, cocoa powder, and a little bit of sugar can go a long way! If you can’t say goodbye to the whipped cream, try a dollop of Cool Whip on top. Add some coffee and ice and blend, and there you go: a much cheaper and much less sugary version of your favorite drink!

Pizza

I know, how can one live without this beautiful creation?! Pizza has become so integrated into our lives that it’s almost second nature to order Domino’s for dinner or grab a slice of New York Pizza after a late night on the town. Sadly, the old excuses of “Well, tomatoes are a vegetable!” and “Doesn’t cheese give you calcium?” don’t really fly with a Domino’s pizza; if you ate two slices of a large Domino’s cheese pizza, you’re looking at 580 calories and 72 carbohydrates! Yup, I’m being serious. However, do not fret! You can still get your pizza fixing with a healthier mindset. Consider making a cauliflower crust, a fairly new creation that has been all the rage online. You can grate cauliflower, combine it with some cheese, spices, and eggs in a bowl, flatten it into a pizza crust shape on a baking sheet, and bake it to create a crust-like consistency. Without a thick, buttery bread crust, you’re saving a ton of carbs while still getting that delicious crust feel. You can add your favorite tomato sauce and cheese variety on top and bake again for a savory, satisfying pizza. It may not be the same as Domino’s, but if you force yourself to forget that you’re eating baked cauliflower, it does taste a heck of a lot like a real crust.

Fries

Last, but not least, the infamous fries. They’re the side on every menu, taunting you as you try and fail to order a salad. You think, “Oh, I’ll just get a medium fry and no burger, that’s not that bad, right?” Well, a medium fry at McDonald’s has 340 calories! It’s a number you probably knew in the back of your mind, but have been subtly ignoring for years. It’s a sad reality; but, you can still eat fries and not bust your belly. Why not try baking your own fries? It sounds shameful, but you can still pack in a lot of flavor. Instead of deep-frying thinly sliced potatoes, you can toss them in some olive oil, salt, and any other spices you like, lay them out on a baking sheet, and bake them in the oven. You can achieve delicious fries with crispy outsides and tender insides. They have less than a third of the fat in a McDonald’s medium fry, with even more flavor! While it doesn’t have the same effect as a steaming hot order of fries from your favorite fast-food joint, it’s a quick and easy recipe to whip up.

There you go! Three ways to upgrade your favorite unhealthy foods to something a lot healthier. I, for one, have never had any success trying to cut out my favorite foods and eat only leafy greens. Just like anyone else, I get terrible cravings for the greasiest and sugariest foods out there. But, if you, also like me, are trying to watch what you eat, this is a great way to go. It’s finally possible to lay on the couch and eat a plate full of fries and have absolutely no guilt about it!

Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder

Why do some people experience depression in the summer?

Believe it or not, seasonal affective disorder, usually associated with wintertime blues, actually applies to summertime depression as well.

The harms of summer SAD are hardly ever talked about, yet many feel these effects on a day to day basis, myself included. Instead of the lethargic and empty feelings present in winter, those with summer SAD have a different set of symptoms. They are restless, irritable, have trouble sleeping and eat less than usual. While summer is supposed to be a time for carefree fun, those with SAD feel a certain pressure to have that fun. Bathing suit season is a terrible time for someone not comfortable in their own skin or the lack of a structured routine that was present in school months leaves them feeling aimless and useless.

For those with summer depression, it can seem like all is lost until August and September when things pick up again. However, there are many ways to handle summer SAD so that everyone can enjoy the sunny months.

Continue reading “Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder”

Training Like A Pro

Sports were never really my thing. Of course I love to cheer on the Red Sox and yell at the referees through the TV during hockey season, but I never got involved with school athletics. I did theatre and dance never stepping foot into my high school’s locker room.

Fast forward three years later and running has become a huge part of my life. If you told high school Hannah that she would be training for a half marathon this summer, she would snicker in your face. My athletic ability is truly being put to the test but I am welcoming the challenge with open arms and fast feet.

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Continue reading “Training Like A Pro”

Facial Mask for Every Skin Type

Like every human being, I had to go through the horrible years of middle school and high school. Those years were hard enough to go through with puberty, friend drama, boy/girl drama, and school. But, I was lucky enough to also have the added problem of acne to add onto my list of teenage torment. When it first hit I had no idea how to handle it and went through countless different routines. Eventually, I went to the dermatologist and they set me up with a routine to follow and calm down my skin. Part of this routine involved using facemask on the regular. I started with store bought masks, but with the rise of organic and whole foods fad I turned to DIY. The weird household objects that I have placed on my face is a bit concerning, but anything for beautiful glowing skin, right?

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My Struggle With Unhealthy Eating

In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love:

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“I’m in love. I’m having a relationship with my pizza.”

For almost all aspects in my life, those words ring true. Not only am I perpetually single, I have almost always had a strong relationship with the foods I eat. It is very important for me to enjoy the food I eat and to have an experience while I eat. In my family, every meal we eat is made with a lot of love and is surrounded by a happy conversation — it is a tradition that makes me value meal-time. However, the bad part about this relationship is that a lot of the food I eat are horrible for my body.

Continue reading “My Struggle With Unhealthy Eating”