Mind Body & Soul

balancing and feeding life's greatest gifts

One Year Closes and Another Opens

newyearOne year.  525,600 minutes. Resolutions—both accomplished and fallen through. Life’s additions, subtractions, plans and surprises. How do you measure a year?

Perhaps it is like life on a smaller scale that you measure it in the moments your breath was taken away rather than the breaths you have taken. By the memories you made rather than the memories you planned for. By the unexpected smiles, changes and hurdles that were thrown over the past 12 months. But also by the completion of goals that were strived for, the dedicated time and work that was put into working towards a specific objective, the new part of who you have become as well as the part of you that you may have lost. And of course by the loved ones around you—the mountains you have climbed, the tears of joy and sorrow you have experienced and the new row of the tight knit relationship you have sewn.

So where does that leave us? 365 days less of life to live or 365 days added to our novel? It is all a page in the journey called life through learning, growing, and loving all that is bestowed upon us.

Before we dive head first into the goals and ambitions for the upcoming year, it is also important to reflect on the past year—the lessons we’ve learned, the changes we’ve made, the laughs we’ve had, and appreciation for all we have experienced as well as another year on this wonderful wild earth.

As this year comes to a close we are given a fresh start, a clean slate and a new stab at the year. It is a time of rejuvenation, mediation, and even hibernation as the holidays come to an end. But where do we start? How do we choose a focus for the year? Yes, of course there are the standards and favorites such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and spending more time with family. But without a plan that is nothing but a dream or aspiration. We first need to decide the purpose of these resolutions. Does it feed your mind, body or soul? Are you doing it because you truly want to, because it is a fad, or because you think it’s the right thing to do?


It may be helpful to bucket your life and ambitions into different areas such as learning something new (mind), a new fitness and nutrition plan (body), reading more scripture or meditating (soul) to make sure that you don’t get off balance and focused too much on one area of life. It is about becoming an overall healthier and happier you. What do you have that you don’t want and want what you don’t have? Try filling in the below chart to start your resolution list.

That is what a new year’s resolution is about. It is about taking the next step towards a better and happier you. As some that follow psychology may put it, it is taking the next step up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to become a level closer to self-actualization. A new year’s resolution is not about a new fad, a

Now, how do you go about creating an attainable new year’s resolution? While I am the farthest thing from the master of them, I think these few tips can help make this year a more achievable and realistic year for your goals.

Write them down!

  • Doesn’t this seem to be the trick to everything? Whether it be losing weight, reminding yourself, to-do lists or going shopping, writing it down solidifies and makes the virtual reality. Lists are all the rage from buzzfeed posts to ‘5 things’ articles on front covers of magazines. My as well jump on the bandwagon. Making it publicly available is also an option but is definitely not necessary as it may be a personal resolution kept you yourself.

Create S.M.A.R.T. Goals

  • One of the most effective motivation and performance goal setting tactics is to make sure you are creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. The chart below lists each letter out but the basic gist is that each resolution and all goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound to help them be more attainable

Review your goals periodically

  • If ever there is a way to stress yourself out, it’s by procrastinating 365 days of resolutions into one month. We have all been there before. It does nothing but create a feeling of disappointment, stress and low expectations for future goals.  So review periodically. Perhaps set an appointment on your calendar to check in once a quarter, or—if you are feeling super ambitious—maybe once a month. This way you will make sure that you are on track and if you have your goals separated into simple steps you can see the progress and what finish line you are headed towards.

Reward yourself when you reach your goals

  • This is so important!! Rewards are crucial to motivation and acceptance. It helps give us a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment which then fuels us to keep going. This does not mean binge on eating a huge chocolate cake, a whopper, milkshake and fries after losing 5lbs, but it is ok to have a piece of cake at a baby step of a goal.


So let’s make 2014 a big year. Dream big, hold yourself accountable, make S.M.A.R.T. goals, and remember that you are only human living in a crazy, unpredictable, unstable world. Things may happen and bump us slightly off track, but if we decide to stand still, find the negative and let life come as it may, be aware that you are just existing and not living. And in the same sense but different note, if you focus only making a living through long, stressful hours of work be aware that you have become so busy making a living that you have forgotten to make a life. For it is not the destination which will bring us satisfaction, but rather the journey will bring lessons and joy for the utmost success in life.

Here are 25 suggestions if you are drawing a blank:

  1. Listen moreNew-Year-Resolutions
  2. Learn something new
  3. Pick up a new hobby
  4. Embark on a spiritual journey
  5. Learn how the body’s muscles work for better more effective workouts
  6. Find a charity to volunteer at that you are passionate about
  7. Make 1 new friend
  8. Let go of the past
  9. Don’t take things personally
  10. Give more, expect less
  11. Read 3 books
  12. Journal your thoughts
  13. Take in more scenery
  14. Write things down
  15. Create a challenging yet understanding relationship with your body
  16. Create a budget
  17. Reach out to family more often
  18. Become an initiator
  19. Do something spontaneous
  20. Take on a physical activity
  21. Meditate
  22. Reflect once a month
  23. Mentor someone
  24. Be mentored by someone
  25. Make a difference in someone’s life

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Sleep Tight

It’s 11am on a Wednesday and the day has officially started. You had a full night sleep, a solid breakfast and coffee so your day is off to a great start. Then, out of nowhere you feel like you’ve been hit by a ton of bricks. You can’t stop yawning, your brain seems to have taken the express flight to the Caribbean, and you feel like you haven’t had sleep in days. What?!?!

We all know the feeling, and sometimes it is more than indescribable—and always at inconvenient times. We have been told a million times how important sleep is since we came out of the womb, and for the most part it was always “You need 8 hours of sleep a night.” But do you really?

Just like everything other aspect in life, we are all different. Studies have been done to show the difference in need between men and women in regards to sleep, as well as different age levels. Although they have published the generalities for each demographic, that does not mean one size fits all. Depending on activity level, calorie intake, stress, and any other outside factors, we each necessitate varying amounts of sleep to function at our fullest.

With that being said, there is one thing that has been proven over and over again as well as taught in many fields from psychology to medicine—the power of the sleep cycle.

My Mantra: The Almighty Sleep Cycle

Like everything else in life, sleeping is part of a system–the most powerful astounding system, the human body. There are ways to use the system to its full potential, take advantage of it, and ways to harm it. In order to do so, we need to first fully understand how the process works.

Sleep is a natural cycle of activity which helps to rejuvenate and restore other systems of our body including the immune, nervous, muscular and skeletal systems. While the length of time each species need varies, the sole purpose remains the same across them all.

The average sleep cycle lasts approximately 90 minutes at which point it starts all over again (about 4-6 times for a full night sleep). The two basic states of sleep are REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement). Within NREM there are four stages. The breakdown of all is as follows.

  • Stage 1: During stage one, you can be awakened easily and feel like you haven’t fallen asleep at all. It is sometimes referred to as drowsy sleep and can be associated with twitches or sudden jerks as part of the commencement of sleeping. While you may not be fully asleep, you become mostly unaware of the surrounding environment and muscles relax. Length of time: 5-10 minutes
  • Stage 2: Stage two is a period of light sleep and results in a decrease of body temperature as well as a slower heart rate. Most time sleeping is during this stage—about 45-55% of total sleep in adults. It is a prep period for the body prior to going into deep sleep. Length of time: 10-20 minutes
  • Stage 3: The third stage initiates the start of deep sleep. While it only occupies 4-5% of our sleep, it is vital in the fact that the brain begins to generate slow delta waves. It is very difficult to be woken up, and may result in being cranky or disoriented. Length of time: 10-15 minutes
  • Stage 4: This is the deepest of sleep full of rhythmic breathing and limited muscle activity. The most healing and recovery occurs during this stage when the brain produces delta waves. While it is the deepest, it is also easy to be woken up. Length of time: 20-30 minutes

Now, the most interesting, complex and ironically the shortest, lightest sleep – REM. I could write articles and articles on REM, but for purposes of keeping this brief, we will leave it as a slight overview. This stage is very active with lots of movement, including “rapid eye movement”. Most intense, vivid and unrealistic dreams occur during REM. This stage is typically shorter at the beginning of a night’s sleep and longer towards the end. Although muscles are relaxing, eye movement is fast, the heart rate increases and breathing is rapid and shallow. While a lot is occurring in the brain and systems, both arms and leg muscles are paralyzed. Length of time: 5-10 minutes.

Tools Better than Counting Sheep: 
Download these super useful tools to help you better understand your sleep patterns and get the most out of your sleep.

  • Sleep Calculator: Find out how much sleep you need in order to avoid interrupting a full sleep cycle and feel well rested when you wake
  • Sleep Cycle: Analyze how you sleep, if you are hitting a deep sleep as well as your movement with this app

Although I am the last person to tell you I have had enough sleep, I have frequently been called the queen of napping whether it be a five or ten minute siesta to a calculated 90 minute slumber, naps are key. They help rejuvenate and give energy to mid-day lull and have been proven effective in stimulating brain activity. Since it has been said that sleeping after learning something new makes it more memorable, if not permanent, a quick nap should help to solidify that information. Here are a few tips to making sure you get the most out of your sleep.

  • Comfort – make sure you have a comfortable sleeping oasis with a firm supportive mattress
  • Temperature – the ideal temperature to help your body cool down and settle into a deep sleep is 68 degrees
  • Environment – having a relaxing environment will help you feel calm as well as you mind feeling uncluttered. This includes turning off the television, lights, and having electronic devices including cell phones more than an arms length away

To some there may be more necessities including personal rituals, unwinding with a book, wine, a glass of milk, or completing certain tasks. As more research is being completed, we can one day hope that sleeping will come down to such a science that we will each be able to understand what our body needs to perform and think at 100%.

Fun Factual Finds:

  • The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.
  • Sleeping directly after learning something new will improve your ability to remember it effectively.
  • 33% of those who drink 4 or more caffeinated beverages daily are designated at risk for sleep apnea – a disorder in which breathing is interrupted briefly and repeatedly, chronic snoring can be an indicator.
  • Dreams, once thought to occur only during REM sleep, also occur (but to a lesser extent) in non-REM sleep phases. It’s possible there may not be a single moment of our sleep when we are actually dreamless.
  • Some studies suggest women need up to an hour’s extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men.
  • After five nights of partial sleep deprivation, three drinks will have the same effect on your body as six would when you’ve slept enough.
  • Snoring occurs only in non-REM sleep
  • Teenagers need as much sleep as small children (about 10 hrs) while those over 65 need the least of all (about six hours). For the average adult aged 25-55, eight hours is considered optimal
  • Most of what we know about sleep we’ve learned in the past 25 years

This is just a snippet from The National Sleep Research Project’s Findings. For more facts and info, read more.

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It’s all Greek to me.

As a marketer, I know how labels and gimmicks are sometimes created to intrigue the consumer enough to buy a product based off of the look, popularity or other appeal. But with all of the hubbub around greek yogurt’s benefits, and the growing competition within the yogurt industry as leaders lessen the calories and increase the benefits, it is time to get to the bottom of this fad.

Since science and technology are constantly improving and reinventing industries, and research studies frequently present findings and conclusions from controlled case studies, there will always be a new “fad” in the food industry. Remember when South Beach diet was the breakthrough solution to all of our health problems? Food manufacturers worked endlessly to remove carbohydrates from their ingredients—even if just enough to slap a “Low Carb” on the front label. Separately, over the past five years we have seen frozen yogurt shops open up on nearly every corner…sometimes as many as three in one downtown area alone! Fads like these make this ever-changing market a challenging place to stay ahead of the curve. Without revolutionizing and reinventing, family favorites like Hostess, who keep their product stagnant based on the legend instead of following the changing needs and wants of their customers end up bankrupt.  

Enough about the food fad craze… what is this stuff and how different can yogurts really be?
The difference between greek yogurt and regular or low-fat yogurt is in the process. Greek yogurt is strained multiple times in order to remove the maximum amout of liquid whey, lactose and sugar. Because of this, the consistency is much thicker than the average creamy yogurt. This process of straining the yogurt doubles the protein and cuts the sugar in half helping it skyrocket to the top of the health food and weight loss popularity list. Today, greek yogurt accounts for 33% of all yogurt sales, which is up from just 1% six years ago.

The difference in the nutrition can be identified as follows:

  • Protein– 8oz of greek yogurt has about 11g of protein compared to 5g in regular yogurt which will help keep you full longer
  • Carbohydrates – Greek yogurt has substantially lower carbohydrates as well as sugar due to the straining process and therefore is also a good choice for those with diabetes
  • Sodium – about half that of regular yogurt
  • Calcium – because of the multiple straining process, the amount of calcium in greek yogurt is lower than that of regular/non-fat yogurt.

But wait…where’s the fine print?
Of course, like all good things, there are cons to this piece of heaven in a cup. During the production of the yogurt, a toxic byproduct is created called acid whey. There is no place to dump this because it will kill fish and harm waterways and the environment. One out of every four ounces of milk is used to produce the yogurt while the other three turn into the runny liquid, which is as acidic as orange juice. Because of the rapid spike in sales and production, New York state alone created 66 million gallons of acid whey with no idea of how to dispose of it. There are lingering ideas on how to handle the problem, but any Greek yogurt manufacturer that can solve this conundrum would optimize on a breakthrough opportunity for the industry, consumer and environment.

We can only hope that they will come up with a solution as fast as they are increasing their market share.

Image Chobani, the top seller of greek yogurt, has made it conveniently easy to substitute everyday products that may be unhealthy, with their yogurt. Due to its unique consistency, it can play the part of mayonnaise, cream cheese or sour cream as a straight conversion.

In addition to substituting ingredients from your family favorite recipes, here are a bunch of interesting recipes you can add to your repertoire containing greek yogurt:




          Garlic cheese knots




          Veggie Dip


Happy converting! Maybe even for a Big Fat Greek Wedding!

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