Ask any healer, therapist, acupuncturist and MD who knows anything about anything, and they will tell you that meditation is good for you. It can reduce stress, depression and your perception of physical pain, it increases compassion, feelings of empathy and even rational thinking. It can improve your relationships with other people, and make you be nicer to yourself. Heck, it even changes the physical structure of your brain after just eight weeks of regular practice.
You’ve been told a million times you should meditate and we bet you’ve dabbled with it here and there—until you got bored, or your legs fell asleep, or your butt was sore, or you suddenly realized now was the perfect time to sort your entire closet by color.
If you don’t meditate every day, we think you should give it a shot. We’re going to do it too!
Truth is, the world would be a much better place if everyone on the planet meditated every day, but since that isn’t going to happen, gotta start with ourselves. If you already do this daily, please cheer everyone else on in the comments with your happy stories about how now your life is better in every way imaginable, K?
So let’s go! Let’s do this thing. There’s strength in numbers, and if the Beatles can do it, so can you. What we’re asking is this: Seven days. In a row. Some time in the next two weeks.
Some rules: Don’t lie.
Instructions: For seven (7!) consecutive days, sit quietly alone for a minimum of 5 minutes—set a timer, it helps a lot. Then write us an email at nomoredirtylooks (at) gmail (dot) com with OHM in the subject line, and include your first name and location, written thusly “Siobhan, Brooklyn, NY” and a brief description of how you felt at the end of your seven days. Send this to us by the end of the day Sunday, September 25th.
Prize: We will pick three winners at random and winners will get a sweet prize in the mail from Essence of Vali, a stunning aromatherapy line. One person will get “Calm—lavender, orange & ylang ylang (for overall stress),” one person will get “Sleep —lavender, marjoram, cedarwood & ylang ylang (for anti anxiety and sleep issues),” and one person will get “Fortify—cedarwood, rosewood & spruce (for grounding).”
The reason for the challenge: Meditation is one of the few things everyone can do—and at no cost, for a mere five minutes a day—to improve their wellbeing, their focus, their ability to feel joy and weather hard times. And, I mean, shoot: All that can only make you more beautiful, too, right? Inside and out.
A relaxed face is a pretty face, right? Sure, yeah. But that’s easier said than done for a lot of us.
It’s August—a time when people go to the beach, sleep in, and show up late to work—but if my horoscope is any indication (and it usually is), this is not going to be a quiet month for me. With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to share five of my 10 favorite ways to reduce stress naturally and healthily, and I really hope you guys share yours in the comments, too.
(I’ll do another five soon, but I’m too stressed to write them all out now.)
1. Breeeeeeeeeeathe. Blah, blah, blah—but it’s true. When you slow down your breath, your nervous system gets a signal that it’s OK to relax, which then tells the rest of your body to take it down a thousand. Then, as if by magic, your mind quiets down. We all know this is true, and I think it’s just one of those things we need to hear over and over again until it clicks and we start doing it when we need it most.
2. Use the quiet moments to plan for the, um, noisier one. I know I have a hectic month ahead of me, so I’ve been trying to take the calm periods after work and on the weekend to recharge my batteries so that when the sh*t hits the fan, as it inevitably will, I’m better able to deal (or duck, as the case may be). You probably all have different ways of doing this. For me lately it’s been spending time with people who make me feel good and who I love, meditating, hanging out in nature (even when that “nature” is a litter-strewn public park) and—eeks!—making collages. I’ve been making art! The nice thing about collages is at the end, you have a thing. You made it! With your hands! Very calming, somehow.
3. Use aromatherapy. Last week I had a wonderful session with Hope Gillerman (which I will write more about soon) and she taught me about her incredibly concentrated and wonderful line of organic aromatherapy. Her collection has been a cult hit for some time, and I was delighted to finally learn about it. I gravitated naturally to the stress remedy, which smelled nothing like the little janky bottle of lavender I keep by my bed at home. I have found her blends to be incredibly effective at taking the edge off. Alexandra and I also like Hope’s tension remedy, which we find less sedating than the stress one; perfect for when you need to focus on the go but you don’t want to lose your mind.
4. Also, use flower essences. Flower essences are going to have to get their own post, too, because they’re special and widely misunderstood, but the gist is: Certain flowers contain certain properties that, when grown organically and distilled by people who know what they’re doing, can impart certain qualities to the person who ingests them. What I find especially interesting about them is that they are working on root causes. Lavender is great when you’re actually freaking out, and I’ve been using Lotus Wei flower essences to target the deeper things that make peace of mind more challenging. I learned about this just a few weeks ago, when I had a wonderful lunch with Katie Hess of Lotus Wei and Lisa Reinhardt of Wei of Chocolate. Meeting women like this is what makes my job (“job”) worthwhile, no question. I especially like Pure Energy and Infinite Love in chocolate and mist and elixir form. You can go to their sites and see which ones might work best for you, too.
5. Be a little irresponsible (but don’t hurt anyone, and don’t get arrested). This one’s as important as the others, in my opinion. Yes, it’s great to be Buddha on the mountain when things are hard, but sometimes what you really need is to take life a little less seriously and have FUN. Maybe you could lie around in bed with a bodysuit on, a bottle of something brown, and some records? I don’t know. I just liked the picture. I look at it and I think, “That looks awesome.” And very, very relaxing.
What are your favorite ways to beat stress? And have you tried the ones listed here? Your answers will help us, too, so share!
Food, psychology, health, exercise, beauty, ayurveda, sex, stress, and sleep. (Oh, and astrology.) Those are like the basic-cable channels we flip between: once we get to sleep, we go back to food. Cycle, repeat, cycle, repeat.
I’m of the mind that feeling your best really requires a combination of all of these things, but if I had to pick a single one as the most important of all, I’d pick sleep.
The data on the importance of sleep is incontrovertible: We need it, we need it consistently, and there are specific things—like a routine, black-out blinds, white noise, cool climes—that optimize it. In the absence of good sleep, science says we are at the mercy of cascading hormones that trigger food cravings, cause irritability, lack of focus, emotional fluctuations, and sap our energy—making it harder to do all those other things we know help us feel our best.
A few years ago, I realized I’m one of those 8-hour people. I need my 8 hours, and a disruption of more than a couple days tends to result in undesirable consequences like bad skin and an even worse mood. As such, I try as best I can to be consistent—without forsaking things like, you know, enjoying myself.
I’m not a crazy person about it, but it does take discipline and rigor to keep it up because as anyone who loves a good time knows: there’s always more fun to be had, always one more hour of Housewives, one more chapter to read, one more glass to raise, one more hour of conversation to indulge in.
So in order to keep my sleep consistent, I seem to have, over time, created a bed-time ritual. There are like five things I do every night, and they’re kind of corny and a little embarrassing, but suffice to say somehow, without even noticing it, I’ve created a ritual that totally works! I guess it’s my way of telling my brain: There’s time for activity, and there’s time for sleep. This is the latter.
Some of the things I do every night: I power down all my electronics and turn off the power strip connected to my internet and my giant television; I turn on my fan (even in the winter—homegirl likes her white noise!); I drink some water; I send nice thoughts in my head to people I love or to people who need it.
So now I ask you: What is your non-negotiable-if-you-had-to-pick-just-one-ticket-to-health habit?
And when it comes to sleep: Do YOU have a bedtime ritual?
Hold onto your miso and get out your nutritional yeast because it’s time for another challenge, and this one is food based. Plant based, specifically. We’re introducing a twist on the Michael Pollan mantra:
Eat food. Not too much. Only plants.
First, a pep talk: Vegan food can be delicious! Ever eaten a cashew? How about a french fry, or an avocado, or a non-mealy tomato with olive oil and crusty bread? Even the humble, sturdy chickpea can be tasty if you prepare it right.
We’re big fans of meatless Mondays, and Mark Bittman’s “vegan before six” philosophy because we know eating a plant-based diet is better for the planet and because they reflect a reasonable and something-is-better-than-nothing approach to progress. And us? We’ve vacillated between veganism and “flexitarianism” (worst word ever) for years. So we’re going to do this one, too.
We know food is a deeply personal subject. Cost, convenience, politics, ethics, geography, spirituality, emotions, even our childhoods play a part. Like maybe you were told you couldn’t leave the table before you finished your pork chop, and so then when you were 13 and you had a cool camp counsellor who was a vegetarian, you decided to become one too (paging Siobhan!). Or maybe your mother liked to butcher chicken at the crack of dawn with a cleaver and so birds aren’t your thing (paging Alexandra!). Who knows.
We’re not trying to tell you what to eat the other 358 days of the year. But some time in the next two weeks, we want you to set aside 7 of them in a row to adhere to a vegan diet.
So join us. One week only.
The rules: No meat, no dairy, no eggs, no honey, no gelatin—no animal-byproduct edibles of any kind—for 7 days, some time over the next two weeks.
Instructions: Send one simple recipe or short description of a dish you made and loved to nomoredirtylooks (at) gmail (dot) com, with VEGAN in the subject line. It can be short, like: “Fried chickpeas with arugula, quinoa and a creamy avocado dressing.” If you are so inclined, you can share more.
Please include your first name and city of origin. (People always forget their city. Don’t forget your city!) We need all emails by end of day, Wednesday, April 20th.
Prize: We will post a whole bunch of the best recipes on our site, as well as on our Facebook page, which you should “Like,” of you don’t mind. We’ll also pick one winner at random to win a great prize from So Delicious, which makes coconut milk that we love in coffee and with cereal, not to mention unbelievably creamy ice creams.
Pretty please: Help us spread the word! Tweet it, Facebook it, scream it from the rooftops, and tell your friends to get on board with you. This only works if you guys are game. So be game.
The reason for the challenge: The burning planet. Also, it’s nutritious, and challenges are fun. And it’s especially interesting to see the changes in perspective—and longer-term behavior—that come about when we try something new. (And if you’re already vegan, you can still share a recipe and participate.)
So who’s in?
Creative Commons Flickr picture from here
While researching something at my job recently, another editor came across a statistic that got us thinking. It said that on average, people laugh 17 times a day. So here’s a question: Does that seem high or low to you? And here’s another question: How many times a day do you laugh?
Alexandra and I are both big laughers—sometimes with other people around, sometimes alone in our offices because someone on the other side of the country just said something really, really funny on gchat. In any case, I definitely consider us both people who are pretty easily entertained and promiscuous with a laugh—but I also know it’s possible that I think I laugh way more than I actually do. And so:
Starting tomorrow (or today if you’re an early bird), we’d like you to count how many times you laugh—obviously typing LOL, ha, or haha does not count unless you actually, you know, LOL—and then post it in the comments. We’ll tally up the results and divide by the total (math math math) and see if we laugh more or less than the average.
No big science here, and no makeup tips—just the basic truth that laughter is a great antidote to stress and sadness, and that literally every single person under the sun looks beautiful when they’re laughing.
So get counting! And happy laughing.