Yesterday, Alexandra and I did an interview with a lovely journalist. When her article is done, we’ll share it, but in the meantime, I’ll share this: She remarked on Alexandra’s very brave and inspiring new year’s resolution post, which you should read and comment on if you have not already. Then she asked me what mine was. I actually shared some on Prevention.com, along with 19 other healthy-living types, just the other day. I’m sticking to those, but…

Over a glass of prosecco, I came up with some others.

I’ve just gotten back from a much-needed jaunt to Miami with our buddy Anna. On our first night, we wrote out our intentions for 2013 on a scrap of paper provided for us by the bartender. Our lists were long! Less filled with resolutions than intentions, I’d say. Mine were all over the map, but if I had to peg them all to a theme, I’d go with this: “Go big or go home.” Which is what tumbled out of my mouth when this woman asked me about my plans for 2013.

I was instantly embarrassed. Who, other than frat boys and rappers, uses that line unironically? And yet I stand by it. That’s because last year, while full of important lessons and countless blessings, kind of kicked my ass. After being sick for many years, my older brother passed away. It’s a loss I still don’t have words for, even as I take comfort in (and often laugh out loud about) his wily, clever spirit, his pranks, and how caring he was as a father and a husband and a friend. So even if the words don’t quite come, I can tell you this: When you lose a person you love deeply and you’re still standing, it emboldens you a little. You grow up. You change on the inside.

So this year, I’m feeling brave. For me, going big means that at 34, I will finally learn how to drive a car (I seriously don’t understand how you people do this, but I’m determined to find out). It also means I’ll work and love and live with more ferocity than ever. Ultimately, it probably also means I’ll change my life in ways that are uncomfortable for a moment—but uncomfortable in the way a hamstring stretch is uncomfortable. Which is to say very—for like five seconds. And then you’re more nimble and pliable and relaxed than you were before. Fact is, no matter what part of you is changing, the letting go can hurt a little at first. But if you think about it, and if you’ll allow me to be incredibly corny for a second, I think we can all agree that letting go is actually the bravest thing you can do in almost every situation.

So… That’s me. Say what you want about resolutions, but I think it helps to think of them, as I said, as intentions rather than rules. So what spirit and focus do you want to bring to your life this year? We’d love to know. Really.

Inspiring and pretty photo via

27

6 Aromatherapy Blends I Can’t Live Without

“Does anyone actually use aromatherapy every day?!”

I was asked this very reasonable question the other day at work. My answer: “Have you ever been in my office?”

I get it, though. Even for those of us who embrace integrative medicine, use organic beauty products and regularly get stuck with tiny needles, aromatherapy can seem a little frou-frou: an indulgence, a touch cosmetic. For a long time, that’s how I felt. Sure, I always had some cheap lavender by the bed. An old friend called it my “sleep juice” because I’d developed a habit of dabbing a little on the skin under my nose before retiring, but that’s as far as I went. I suspected aromatherapy might be a very useful tool, if only I could remember to use the stuff.

Since then I’ve developed a more sophisticated relationship with essential oils. If you haven’t done the same, I’d like to encourage you to.

That’s because aromatherapy can, I believe, kill a cold in its tracks, transform your stressful day into a productive one, help you unwind after work, gear you up for important meetings, and, much more simply, make you feel happy. It also has the added benefit of helping those around you, too, without them even realizing it.

I’m getting pretty deep into researching how aromatherapy really works and when I’m done, I’ll share that. For now, I’ll share the six products, from three lines, that I use every single day:

1. Tata Harper Irritability Treatment

We’ve discussed this one before. As much as it is, in fact, an irritability zapper, this is also my daily perfume. There’s no getting around it: People freak out when they smell it. It’s impossible to describe, but it’s complex and gorgeous and unlike anything I’ve ever smelled. A lady on the train stopped me the other week—it’s the only way I can handle commuting on the jam-packed 4 train at 8 am—and asked me what I was wearing. I dug into my giant bag and produced the little vial to show her. Her eyes went wild while she smelled it, so I invited her to put some on. She did, and then pulled out a notebook to write down its name. “You made everyone on the train happy just by coming on this car!” I melted…and I kind of think she was right.

When I use it: Before I get on the subway in the morning, before hot dates, before important meetings.
How it makes me feel: Like…myself? In a good way.

2. Essence of Vali Sleep Bedtime Ritual

We wrote in the book that we’d wear this as perfume, too, if it weren’t for its completely unsubtle narcotic properties. This stuff knocks me out, inducing sleep as deep as a baby’s. I like to shake a few drops onto my hands, cup them over my nose, then take 10 very deep breaths. I try not to do this every night, lest it stop working at some point. I gave this stuff to a colleague when she was going through a terrible breakup and she swore up and down it worked. I’ve subjected boyfriends to it, too. I’ve yet to find someone upon whom it does not cast a sleepy spell.

When I use it: Only the second I’m ready to sleep. It works usually within 10 minutes.
How it makes me feel: Couldn’t tell you. I’m asleep, remember?

3. Hope Gillerman Travel Remedy. Hope Gillerman is, I’m convinced, the standard-bearer for high-quality, potent EOs that work almost medicinally—and I’m not just saying that because she’s my next-door neighbor. She’s a natural healer, and I first met her a couple of years ago when she gave me a complimentary Alexander Technique treatment. That was so cool! Even cooler, for me at the time, was the aromatherapy 101 class she gave me before the session. I left her office with the Stress Remedy, which I adore. But lately, my go-to is her Travel Remedy. I wrote about it recently, when I started using it to fend off a seasonal cold. I’ve also used her Muscle Relief on my achey bones (and the achey bones of skeptics): always works. And on my desk at work, I have her Tension Remedy. It’s invigorating and a little zesty, perking me up when I’m computer-tired or anxious about a big meeting. Works every time.

When I use it: All day. Travel Remedy when I feel rundown; Stress when I’m feeling unshiny and haggard from a tough day; Muscle after a killer yoga glass or boot camp; Tension on the go, during the work day.
How it makes me feel: I’ve already explained this, but let me add: The Stress and Tension remedies make me feel much more present, much more in the moment.

Your turn. What’s been your experience with aromatherapy? Anything you love or—gasp—can’t live without?

23

Get Happier: Wish for Five Nice Things

The other night over dinner with friends, I invented a new game.

As we tore into our appetizers of fennel salad, roasted cauliflower and Cabernet (yes, wine counts), we played a round of something I’ll call Wish for Five Nice Things.

Our friends are good sports, and they know me well enough to just roll with this kind of cheesy forced-participation dinnertime activity when inspiration strikes. The three of us have played Say Five Nice Things together several times over shared meals. On another occasion, we decided that everyone at the table should say something nice to the person to our right, then we switched and did the person to our left. So corny, I know.

This one’s a little different. Instead of pointing out things that you like, focus on what you’d like to have. In your life. Now or later.

Examples: Maybe you’d like that weird-in-a-bad-way recurring dream to stop happening. Maybe you find yourself stuck in a pattern you’d like to break, or you wish you could actually try crow pose instead of running to the bathroom every time it comes up at yoga. Or maybe you’ve got your eye on a new job, or a cute guy or girl or…a killer pair of pumps? This game, like Say Five Nice Things, doesn’t have to be heavy.

So why bother? First, remember, this isn’t about finding a thing outside of yourself that will fix all your problems. Instead, it’s about setting an intention, saying it out loud so you kind of own the thing, and then risking wishing for what you secretly know you want but for which you are maybe a little scared to ask from universe/yourself/your partner/your body etc. So maybe “wish” is the wrong word, but we’ll work with that for now.

Still need convincing? Here are four reasons to play Wish For Five Nice Things:

1. We’re a goal-oriented species. My acupuncturist is good at reminding me that life goes by in a snap if you don’t actively participate in it. Actually, it goes by in a snap no matter how you live, so it’s a nice idea to try to be present, see what’s in front of you, and create the life you want. I find setting intentions—out loud, or out loud in my head—to be useful day-to-day, and in a big-picture kind of way.

2. It helps you identify what it is you really want. This is not easy! I will go on the record and say that this year has totally kicked my ass. But it’s also taught me a great deal about the preciousness of life and how much it matters where you put your energy. A lot of folks are take-what-comes kind of people in some area of their life. There is nothing wrong with living that way. In fact, it’s the goal of many spiritual practices. But there’s a difference between rolling with the punches, because the punches will always roll, and not actually thinking about—and risking going after—what it is you really want. Even if that thing happens to be shoes.

3. It puts you in the driver’s seat. Again, this is why “wish” isn’t quite right, but life has taught me that when you vocalize what you want, as opposed to just taking whatever it throws at you, you are primed to risk getting it—by actually doing something. At the very least, it can help you set in action a course you could follow to get that thing. Or so goes my logic.

4. It’s nice to wish for things for other people. So we played this game at dinner, and then at the bar across the street with different friends after, and guess what happened? Everyone just totally came alive, excited by their own wishes, but especially about everyone else’s. It gives you something to wish for on behalf of your loved ones (or, if you’re stuck, you can always just steal their good ones). But it’s nice to wish for things for other people, especially when it’s not the thing you think they need, or the thing you think they should want, but what they picked themselves.

So! We’d love you to list five nice things YOU want for yourself in the comments. If you’re feeling shy, grab a piece of paper and write it down. We’d also encourage you to try it with your friends or your lover. And if you’re up for a bonus round (I always am), play Say Five Nice Things, too.

10

DIY Muscle/Detox Oil

For many years I used arnica gel for muscle soreness, and it worked fine but I wasn’t completely satisfied.  The one I used was pretty clean, I think, but I thought essential oils might be a better (and cleaner) solution. Plus, the gel is so cold going on and that first moment of application made me cringe. I’ve been working on this EO recipe for a while, and now have a blend I’m pleased with in both performance and scent.  It’s a multi-tasker too, which I certainly value.

Vetiver, 20 drops – immediate relief, chronic conditions

Sandalwood, 20 drops – immediate relief

Lavender, 10 drops – strains/spasms

Litsea, 5 drops – immediate relief

Grapefruit, 15 drops – continued recovery

Fennel, 10 drops – chronic conditions

Peppermint, 10 drops – immediate relief, chronic conditions

Clary Sage, 5 drops – strains/spasms

Helichrysum, 5 drops – continued recovery

Drop the EOs in a 2oz amber glass dropper bottle, then fill it up with grapeseed oil.

Tip the bottle back and forth or roll it to blend.  Easy, and it really works!

It rubs into the skin easily, but you could dampen the skin with water or spray with a hydrosol for even easier application.

I have chronic shoulder/neck issues that are definitely improved with use of this mix. I’ve also used it successfully on low backaches, and various strains and soreness from activity.

I’m very happy with this combination of oils and will keep making it, possibly working with proportion a bit for each new batch.  You could use fewer oils to simplify the recipe, just pay attention to the purpose of each oil you are adding. Sandalwood and Helichrysum are on the more expensive side, so if that’s an issue you could leave those out and add more of the other oils that serve a similar purpose. The overall smell of my blend is pretty earthy, as the vetiver and sandalwood would suggest. But the lighter notes are definitely there, with peppermint standing out a bit. I like the smell (my son tells me I smell good after using it), and if you mix it and decide it’s too strong, you can always dilute it more.  Watch out for the litsea if you decide to add extra— it can get very Lemon Pledge-y if you add too much (but it is big on performance so if you enjoy that scent go for it). The carrier oil could be anything you like. I chose grapeseed because it has a pretty neutral scent and my skin likes it. Arnica oil might be a good choice too, but the one I have has an olive oil base, and my skin doesn’t seem to care for olive oil.

This particular blend is also good for detox, as well as for supporting sleep, and I’ve been using it on my hands and feet before bed. I’m sleeping soundly and I feel like it’s supporting my cleanse efforts. I am thinking to add this blend to some bath salts, but I haven’t tried that yet. Most of my EOs came from Mountain Rose Herbs, as did my bottle. The Hope Gillerman Essential Oils Deck was very helpful in creating the recipe, and I highly recommend the deck for anyone beginning to work with EOs.

Will you try this recipe?  Do you have a go-to for muscle aches?

Image via