When your alarm goes off early in the morning, are you the type of person to feel energized and ready to greet the new day or do you pull the covers over your head and hit the snooze button?
Did you know that anxiety disorders affect at least 18 to 30 percent of American adults and that an estimated 43 percent of North Americans take mood-altering prescriptions on a regular basis?
I’m a firm believer in getting the most nutritional bang for your buck when it comes to making food choices. It’s one of the reasons I love superfoods so much!
I also believe in making every meal a moment. And it’s a key component in how I coach my clients — understanding that how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Because having a green smoothie and kale salad everyday is great, but not when we’re gulping them down in the car or at our desk in front of a pile of unanswered emails.
Digestion is a complex process that functions best when we’re calm and relaxed — when we take a few deep breaths, look at our food, smell it and truly taste each bite. If we’re stressed, anxious and distracted, we’re not allowing our body to properly break down our meal — which not only leads to less nutrient absorption, but also increased digestive distress, gas and bloating. Not fun!
So, how do I personally make mealtime more mindful? Here are a few insights and ideas to get you started:
Breakfast: My morning coffee ritual is non-negotiable. I’ll get up earlier if I have to — just to sit and be with my thoughts (no phone!) for five minutes while I sip from my favorite mug. If I’m having a smoothie later, I always make sure to CHEW it. So often we gulp them down and end up with a stomachache because we didn’t take the time to prime our digestion and let it know food was coming.
Lunch: When it’s time to break out my salad, I take a few deep breaths and close my laptop first. Without the distractions, you’ll be surprised and how much chewing it actually takes to break down those raw, fibrous veggies. For clients, I’ll tell them to set a timer and consciously take 10 minutes from first bite to last bite.
Dinner: Growing up, my mom was always adamant about the "no TV at dinner" rule, and now I uphold the policy in my own home. My husband and I also say a simple grace as a way to pause and reflect on the day — to shift the momentum, slow down and reconnect with both each other and our food.
It took me a while to put these practices consistently into place. My advice is to be kind to yourself and pick one meal each day as a starting point. Turn off your phone, computer and TV for a good five minutes. Then pause, take a few deep breaths, be thankful for the nourishing food you’re about to eat and chew — putting your fork down between bites helps. Try it out, then head over to @erinparekh_ and message me how you felt afterwards or share in comments below.
Goals are powerful tools that keep us focused, motivated and constantly evolving. It's human nature to set and chase goals. However, sometimes goals can also feel daunting, intimidating, overwhelming and even downright stressful. That’s why I’m a big believer in dreaming big and acting small – a self-improvement strategy called micro-goal setting that can apply to pretty much every aspect of life!
Micro-goal setting involves creating small, manageable goals that are steps in the right direction for achieving your large, long-term goals. What I love about micro-goals is that they are tangible, specific, task-oriented and totally achievable. They make sure you stay on point, move you forward and are surprisingly motivating. You can think of micro-goal setting like training to run a marathon. If this was your goal but you had never run a day in your life, you wouldn’t wake up one day, lace up your running shoes and pound the pavement for 26.2 miles. Instead, you would start by setting smaller goals, such as jogging one mile, then two, then perhaps signing up for a 5K race, and you'd slowly ramp up to your ultimate goal of being a marathon runner. The secret to long-distance running has nothing to do with setting out to run a large distance, and everything to do with how capable you are at compartmentalizing small achievements that add up to a great feat.
But you certainly don’t have to be a runner to put this strategy to work. Micro-goals can apply to so many aspects of life, especially in the health and wellness realm. Beyond just balancing weight, you can set micro-goals to get stronger, become more flexible, achieve better sleep, have more energy, be more positive or just live better. And when it comes to eating and nutrition, micro-goals have everything to do with helping you make small changes that really add up over time.
Life gets busy and without going so far as to hire a personal nutritionist, most of us simply don’t have time for extensive meal planning and ingredient research. I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to start achieving micro-goals in your diet is to simply start introducing more superfoods into daily meals. Since superfoods are such powerful nutrient-dense foods, you really get the most benefits from every bite. So, by simply adding superfoods like Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Goji Berries and Turmeric to the foods you already eat, you’ve just accomplished the healthy micro-goal number one of eating better that you can feel proud about! This can pave the way to other micro-goals, such as reducing sugar, making sure you're consuming more fiber or eating as “clean” as possible.
If eating healthier, improving your overall wellness and living a more natural life are some big goals of yours, then consider setting an easy micro-goal of having a superfood smoothie each day. Navitas Organics Essential Superfood Blends help ensure that you’re getting a wide spectrum of nutrition with minimal effort and no guesswork. And for other big goals that you’ve set for yourself, keep reading for some micro examples that you can focus on to get one step closer to those big ones. Even the tiniest accomplishments will fuel you with the momentum you need to achieve what you want and become the best version of yourself!
Hi! I’m Erin Parekh, Holistic Health Coach, Culinary Nutrition Expert, and plant-based recipe developer.
I believe that being healthy doesn’t have to be hard or complicated — that living a fulfilling life and eating the most beautiful, delicious, nourishing food is well within reach for all of us.
But, in order to do this, we have to cut through the noise (there’s a lot of it) and get back to basics. No diets or programs. No hours spent in the kitchen. No killing it at the gym every day.
Just Real Food. Real Life. Made Simple.
This little mantra is what I strive for personally. It’s how I develop recipes and how I coach my clients. Because at the end of the day, no one (not even a health coach!) is going to stick with healthy habits long-term if they aren’t enjoyable or easy.
I spent the majority of my early adult life struggling with anxiety, low self-esteem, disordered eating, and a 50-pound weight fluctuation. I tried every diet book, workout video, and weight-loss supplement available — thinking that if I could just maintain a certain number on the scale, everything would fall magically into place. But as I’m sure you can guess, that wasn’t the case at all.
It seems that despite a conscious awareness about the need for work-life balance, life just gets busier all the time. Finding enjoyment with work is challenging when resources are scarce and the “to do” list seems endless. While the ultimate goal in life is to do what you love and love what you do, it’s often not that realistic even under the best of circumstances. Fortunately, many employers are searching for ways to make work life more fulfilling due to mounting evidence that employee engagement is a critical component of an organization’s success. This is particularly relevant to building loyalty and fostering creativity within the team. After all, when employees are getting their social and emotional needs met, it brings them closer to the ideal goal of finding joy in the work they do. Now more than ever before, companies are making time to support important causes they care about through volunteerism and community service, which boosts employee satisfaction at the same time. Through corporate social responsibility programs, doing good for others can be an important contributor to the well-being of employees and the organization as a whole.
Today, 79% of Employees Prefer to Work for Companies That are Socially Responsible
A lot has been written about the mental and physical health benefits that come with volunteering, making corporate responsibility programs very attractive to future employees. This is especially true if the causes that are supported reinforce the values and beliefs held by the company. Mental health benefits range from reduced levels of depression and social connectedness to fostering a sense of purpose. But, physical health benefits are also available to those who volunteer their time in service of others. One study in particular reported that volunteering is associated with decreased risk for high blood pressure, a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and the leading cause of early mortality in both men and women. This may have to do with physical labor associated with the volunteer activity or the effect of stress reduction that results from altruistic behavior, but other studies have shown similar results. Some have even demonstrated a relationship to reduced obesity, increased cognitive function and increased levels of dopamine, “the pleasure-seeking” neurotransmitter, in the brain. Most surprising of all is that research with highly engaged working populations shows that volunteering can help employees create better work-life balance, despite being busy in addition to positively influencing health.
The “Happiness Effect” May be the Reason
The “happiness effect” describes that “feel-good” experience from dopamine being released in the brain and this may be the most compelling reason to incorporate volunteerism as a corporate objective. Doing good deeds in the community for no other reason than to help others has the effect of spreading positive energy to everyone around – not just those helping or being helped. This can be thought of the same way as practicing self-care – eating health-promoting, nutrient-dense foods or the feeling after a rigorous workout. The energy that comes from doing good for yourself and for those around you can be infectious, inspiring others to do the same. Community service and volunteerism work in a similar capacity, helping to generate renewed energy and enthusiasm around shared goals within an organization.
Spreading Positivity is Good for Your Health
Navitas Organics is doing our part by sharing the meaning behind our "Live Life Positive" campaign and our commitment to corporate social responsibility is a large part of that story. Just like “the happiness effect,” we believe that making a positive impact in the world creates a ripple effect in all aspects of life. Through innovation of organic superfoods and snacks that have minimal environmental burden, giving back to people in need and supporting the causes we believe in, we aim to help make individuals and communities healthier and more resilient. Through a strong commitment to volunteerism, we hope our employees will benefit from the “happiness effect” and hopefully find additional meaning in the work they do. After all, no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
You're relaxed, soaking up an exciting new environment and crossing off a destination from your travel bucket list. There's only one thing missing from this epic vacation: your healthy lifestyle.
Anyone who's enjoyed the energy, clarity and enhanced glow from a healthier set of proactive measures can attest the rewards (like waking up feeling rested) are far greater than the sacrifices (apologies, double-stuffed pizza crust). But, for all their perks, vacations are notorious for throwing off our rhythm of self-care. As a result, many people return from vacations feeling bloated, tired and even sick.
But, you certainly don't need to sacrifice the wellness you've earned to satisfy your travel bug. With just a bit of foresight, you can keep your healthy priorities in the forefront while fully embracing the experience for which you've set aside valuable time and money. Here's how:
Between airplanes, gas stations, public transportation and questionable hotel remotes, you can definitely count on being exposed to a lot of new germs and bugs while on the road. Think you'll be fine? The average person touches their face 16 times an hour. That's about 16 times too much of dirty handrail-to-face contact, if you ask me. To help keep the bugs at bay, try keeping a travel-sized container of antibacterial spray or gel with you. By applying the solution even just a few times a day, you can reduce your exposure (and your chances of getting sick) tremendously.
Plan for Sweat
Just because you're off the clock doesn't mean you have to fully give up your fitness. While most people don't look to turn their vacation into an epic workout regimen, a little bit of movement thrown into the schedule (or lack thereof) can actually increase your energy, enhance your mood and help you relax even more. So, make sure you pack at least one set of workout clothes to enjoy your favorite sport, such as practicing yoga, heading out for a brisk jog or jumping in some water for a refreshing swim.
Bring Your Own Toiletries! While it can be tempting to just use the hotel's shampoo or pick up a bottle of insect repellent on site, your chances of finding an organic, green product to use are usually rather low. Keep the new chemicals and toxins you will inevitably expose your body to at a minimum by using your own tested varieties – you're much less likely to suffer from allergies and brain fog due to unknown sensitivities.
Pack a Smoothie Stash
Enjoying local cuisine of wherever you're traveling to is more than just a perk of traveling – it's a huge part of the experience! And by no means should you feel the need to give up the opportunity to try the delicious new fare. To keep your digestive system happy though, try to keep at least one meal out of the day similar to the routine you'd enjoy back at home. A great way to achieve this is through bringing a superfood blend – a great mix of balanced nutrient-dense foods – to make a quick smoothie in a shaker bottle. Navitas Organics’ Protein & Greens Essential Superfood Blend is unflavored, so you can easily combine it with whatever beverage you come across in your travels, and it’s lightweight so you can pack a whole bag to cover your entire trip.
…And Maybe Bring a Few Healthy Snacks, Too
The worst feeling on a trip is feeling starving while not being able to find something to eat. Packing a small collection of healthy superfood snacks like Goji Berries, nuts or snack bars can sometimes save the day – or at least, save you from hanger – while giving you a quick dose of healthy sustenance that will energize you on both a caloric and nutrient level.
At first look, happiness may seem like a subjective quality: who's to say that your amazing new pair of shoes doesn't actually make the world seem a little bit brighter? But, while we may all have our individual joyful quirks, some things have been biologically proven to enhance mood.
The meditation-happiness relationship has been long documented, but more recently, it's become science-backed as well. One such study offered 60 employees a seven-week meditation course consisting of 15-20 minutes of mediation a day. In comparison to the non-meditating employees, results showed the meditators experienced an increase in positive emotions that included a clearer purpose in life, a feeling of social support and even a decrease in physical pain from illness symptoms. For such a simple practice that can be done anywhere – free of charge – it's no wonder mediation is quickly rising in popularity in modern society.
2. Exercise Regularly
Have you ever experienced a “running high” or felt particularly elated after completing a difficult session of as many reps as possible (AMRAP) – even while exhausted? You're not alone! The human body was meant to move, and we're actually designed with psychological support to increase biological motivation for activity. Exercise releases all the most prominent mood-related neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (and epinephrine). This healthy good-mood ride was likely a way to encourage physical activity from an evolutionary standpoint, but today it can be used the other way around, too: getting a little sweat on to promote a better headspace.
3. Eat Some Chocolate
If you've ever made the claim that eating chocolate makes you happy, it turns out you're scientifically right! Many studies have been published that show chocolate's effect on mood, which is due to its unique phytochemical composition, including components like theobromine and flavanols. Chocolate even contains a special compound called anandamide, often called “the bliss molecule.” The result is that chocolate (and in particular, Cacao), stimulates endorphins and provides precursor nutrition for mood-boosting neurotransmitters.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep and depression go hand-in-hand, but the opposite is also true. Of course, you feel better from a great night of zzz's, but your brain actually functions on an entirely new happy level, too. And it's not just duration, it's regularity as well. One 2017 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that “week-long irregular sleep schedules are significantly associated with lower self-reported morning and evening happiness, healthiness, and calmness during the week even after controlling for weekly average sleep duration,” said lead author Akane Sano, PhD. So, set a bedtime – and stick to it – to naturally broaden your smile.
5. Give to Others
The saying “it's better to give than to receive” is true on many levels, but can include a direct correlation to personal, lasting happiness. Studies have shown that “giving” stimulates the same parts of the brain activated by food and sex, indicating that generosity is a hard-wired component of our brain. Helping others is a short-cut way to not only be of service, but to help yourself in the process as well.
6. Enjoy Your Furry (or Non-Furry) Friends
Why does just looking at a picture of a puppy bring a smile to your face – even on a difficult day? Animals can help improve mental health so dramatically, there's even a medical term for this kind of animal assistance: pet therapy. In one study, as reported by TIME, “a stressed-out group of adults were told to pet a rabbit, a turtle or their toy forms. The toys had no effect. But stroking a living creature, whether hard-shelled or furry, relieved anxiety. It worked for people regardless of whether they initially said they liked animals.” Similar studies even found that having pet crickets helped reduce depression! When it comes to balanced mental health, nature wins again.