GET A HOUSEPLANT. (OR SEVERAL.)
I don't have a green thumb. Hell, I single-handedly killed a snake plant -- also known as mother-in-law's tongue -- which is supposedly able to withstand even the worst cases of neglect. (In the photo above, I'm holding our family's newest green friend, a five-dollar aloe vera plant I bought on clearance at our grocery story to replace my son's snake plant that I annihilated.) Still, I can't get enough of houseplants, and you will find one in nearly every room here at Casa Conover. Why? Well, for starters, they are integral to maintaining our family's health. Here are some of the reasons why, according to Bayer Advanced:
- When we breathe, our body takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This opposite pattern of gas use makes plants and people natural partners. Adding plants to interior spaces can increase oxygen levels.
- Plants release moisture vapor (roughly 97 percent of the water they take in), which increases humidity of the air around them. So if you place several plants together, you can actually increase the humidity of a room...which helps keeps respiratory distresses at bay. Studies at the Agricultural University of Norway document that using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs.
- Adding plants to hospital rooms speeds recovery rates of surgical patients, according to researchers at Kansas State University. Compared to patients in rooms without plants, patients in rooms with plants request less pain medication, have lower heart rates and blood pressure, experience less fatigue and anxiety, and are released from the hospital sooner
USE SULFATE-FREE SOAP
I've lived by this creed for nearly 10 years now: I abhor sodium lauryl sulfate, also known as SLS. It's an extremely common ingredient in personal care products that allows cleansing products to foam. And it's in nearly EVERYTHING. Go ahead, check the labels of the products you already own. SLS is in most body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and laundry detergent. And it's also been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption. Now, to be fair, there have been countless studies on SLS, and some researchers insist that "regular" exposure to SLS (whatever that means) is not the problem; rather it's the gradual, cumulative effects of long-term, repeated exposures that pose real concern. Now, here's the thing: I'm not a scientist or a researcher, but I do consider myself a moderately informed consumer, and I know that much of what goes ON you ends up going IN you. And as one who has battled allergies and eczema her entire life, I'm not trying to give my skin -- or my family's -- one more hurdle to jump. So we only use SLS-free soaps and shampoos. My favorite options include Walgreens' Ology Moisturizing Shampoo (under five bucks), Seventh Generation's Chamomile Body Wash (two bucks at Big Lots), and fine Italian soaps that I purchase from Marshall's at a deep discount for less than four bucks for a super-large bar.
BUY A YOGA MAT
I know it comes as s shock that I -- a certified yoga instructor -- suggest you buy a yoga mat. But hear me out; my reasoning is an unconventional one. I'm not asking you to become a yogi. I'm not even asking you to establish a full-blown yoga practice. (Although, if you did, I'd be very happy about that.) But what I am asking you to do is just buy a mat. Get a cheapie one from the discount store Five Below. Or, if you can afford to spend a little more, go to TJ Maxx and spring for a twenty-dollar mat (which really retails for twice as much) and simply make an effort to unroll it a couple times a week. Do sit-ups on the mat. Or sit on your behind, bend forward, and touch your toes for a count of 20. Do something. Anything. If you do this with even a modicum of consistency, you will come to look forward to the time you spend on your mat. And your body -- and overall health -- will thank you.
VISIT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET
I've been pretty vocal about our family's love of our town's farmer's market for obvious reasons: the fruits and vegetables! But there's more. So. Much. More. Like, last week, an artist at our market was selling these painted wooden planks that resemble the American flag (pictured above); and next to her was a vendor selling pure beeswax candles, which are 100% natural, chemical-free, and have been prized since ancient times. (I bought a three-dollar one shaped like a butterfly.) Neither the candle or wooden plank flag are edible, of course. But it is my belief that being in the presence of expressions of art such as these can improve our emotional health -- and then you get to buy these goods straight from the man or woman who made them to boot. It just feels really good.
WALK ON GRASS
It's called grounding, and I wrote an entire blog post on this very topic last year. Grounding, has been said to help decrease anxiety and depression while simultaneously increasing the levels of endorphins – the chemical released by the brain that works as our own private narcotic. I actually credit grounding with helping me through a rather challenging first pregnancy with my son. The most eloquent and easily-understood description of grounding I was able to find comes from a site called MindBodyGreen.com: “Our bodies are made up of about 60 percent water, which is great for conducting electricity. The earth has a negative ionic charge. Going barefoot grounds our bodies to that charge. Negative ions have been proven to detoxify, calm, reduce inflammation, synchronize your internal clocks, hormonal cycles and physiological rhythms.” Is it hogwash? Who really knows. But, speaking from experience, I truly believe there's some truth to this stuff. And, I mean, c'mon, immersing your tootsies in plush, green grass just plain feels good.