Corn tortillas filled with meat and veggies

Yes, Tacos Can Brighten Up Your Day

When it comes to foods that make you happy, I bet it doesn’t take long for tacos to make your short list. According to a survey conducted by OnePoll (commissioned by the meal kit delivery service HelloFresh), researchers asked participants about the foods that can instantly brighten up their day. Tacos topped the list, followed by the breakfast staple of bacon and eggs, and steak. That’s high praise for the traditional comfort food that originated from our neighbors to the south. October 4th is National Taco Day and Yelp—the website and app that lets users sound off on local businesses with reviews, photos and other information—recently released its Top 100 Taco Spots in the US. Depending on where you live in the country, from Texas to California, the choices for a good local taco joint are abundant, such as Mami Coco in Dallas or Taco Nazos in L.A. But this list proves you don’t have to live closer to the border to still get a good taco. According to the Yelp, you can find some of the best local taco spots in unconventional places, including Shaka Tacoz in Hawaii, Los Tacos No. 1 in New York and Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos Alaska. Yelp is also offering a $20,000 sweepstakes to users who love tacos and support local businesses. When the winner of the first-ever Taco Trailblazer award is chosen, they will then embark on the Yelp Taco Trail and visit some of those Top 100 Taco Spots in the United States and document their journey on the site. Whether it’s the simplicity, versatility, convenience or they just plain taste great, tacos seem to offer much more to the soul than just sustenance, but we’ll leave that to the food experts to figure out. We’ll just continue to put smiles on our faces with a visit to the local taco shop. Here are the some of the Top Taco Spots in the United States according to Yelp!:  Fernandez Restaurant - San Diego  Taco Nazo – Bellflower - Los Angeles  Taqueria Mi Ranchito - Los Angeles  Granny's Tacos – Austin  Los Tacos No.1 - New York   Tacos Sinaloa - San Francisco   El Primo Tacos - Los Angeles   Bajamar Seafood & Tacos - Las Vegas   Shaka Tacoz - Hawaii   Mami Coco - Dallas   De Cabeza - San Diego   Deckhand Dave's Fish Tacos - Alaska   Jazzy's Kitchen - Hawaii   Taqueria El Asador – Pensacola   Mariscos Mi Gusto Es - San Diego   Street Tacos and Grill - Los Angeles   Tacos Jalisco – Key Largo   Tranky's Tacos - Dallas   El Chile Toreado - Santa Fe   Birrieria Little Tijuana - Los Angeles/Riverside   Cocina Madrigal - Phoenix   Edgewater Tacos - Chicago   Chicali Tacos - Las Vegas   Tacos Aya Yay - Denver   La Bamba Mexican Grill Restaurant - Phoenix   Taqueria Pollo Asado - Seattle   Tlaolli - Indiana   Del Seoul - Chicago   Str8 Up Tacos - Los Angeles   Porque No? Tacos - San Francisco   Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa - Phoenix   Guerra's Krazy Taco - Ohio   Tacos Del Chavo - Atlanta   SoyMexican Veggie-Vegan Eatery - Las Vegas   Frogtowns Gourmet Tacos - Los Angeles   El Gallo Giro Taco Truck - San Francisco   Xicamiti La Taquería Bistro - Denver   Tacos La Pasadita - Utah   Dos Mundos - Portland   Tacos Y Mariscos Las Islitas - Hawaii   Tacos El Gordo - San Diego   TaquerEATa - Hawaii   Tacos Los Panchos - Utah   Tacos El Chilango Food Truck - Virginia   Fish Company Taco - Galveston   TACO-BOOK Taqueria - Seattle   Benny's Tacos & Rotisserie Chicken - Westchester –  Los Angeles   Taqueria La Loma - Ohio   Tres Amigos - Arizona   Birria & Barbacoa de chivo Los Compadre's - Louisiana   Sangria On the Burg - San Antonio   Tacotarian - Las Vegas   Antojitos Izcalli - Alabama   Cuantos Tacos – Austin   Birria Landia Williamsburg - New York   Taqueria Nuevo Leon – Carrollton   Los Mariscos - New York   Sabrina's West Street Kitchen - Reno   Xochi - Seattle   Taqueria El Amigo - Boston   Maciel's Tortas and Tacos - Memphis   El Super Taco – Phoenix   Los Agavez Taqueria - Ohio   La Lupita Taco Restaurant – Houston   Los Bocados – Parkland, Florida   Titas Taco House – Humble, Texas   Just Tacos and More - Phoenix   Chris' Ice Cream - Indianapolis   Chino Loco Taqueria - Michigan   Lolis Mexican Cravings - Tampa   El Cuate - Oregon   La Cocina Mexican Street Food - Utah   Taco Culture Taco Shop Arizona - Phoenix   Tacos Nayarit - South Carolina   Arun’s Indian Kitchen & Taco Masala – Lauderhill, Florida   Slope & Hatch - Colorado   La Calle Taqueria Y Carnitas - Colorado   El Taco Feliz - Hawaii   Yellow City Street Food - Amarillo   Forastero - Chicago   Acevedos Hawaicano Café - Hawaii   Lane's Quickie Tacos - Arkansas   143 Street Tacos - Arizona   Tacos Doña Lena - Houston   The Taco King – Houston   La Plaza Supermarket - Ohio   Nanys Tacos - Arizona   J Zapata - Pennsylvania   Cafe Nube - New York   Flavia's Kitchen – Austin   Taco Bamba - Virginia   Tacos Pihuamo - Oregon   Taco El Chingon - NY State   Cinco De mayo Taqueria – Spring, Texas   Quesabirria Jalisco Tacos - Chicago   Las Palmas - Pennsylvania   Dos Hermanos Taco Truck - Alabama   El Paisa - New Mexico   Alegria Tacos – Oakland Park, Florida  La Reforma Brewery - New Mexico
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Kids doing arts and crafts

The Art of Parenting

As the mother of three children under the age of 10, Kate Vastano is used to finding unexpected surprises around the house. But when she discovered that her 5-year-old daughter, Jules, had painted the wall with nail polish, it stopped her in her tracks. She learned that Jules had been trying to paint their dog’s toenails, but when he refused to cooperate, Jules decided to hone her painting skills on the only other available canvas: a hallway wall. Kate’s immediate thought was to paint over it, but there was one little problem. “I had no clue which shade of paint we used on that wall,” says Kate, who lives in Brentwood, Tennessee. “I thought we were really screwed this time.” But she quickly channeled her frustration into creativity. She put a frame around it, complete with a museum-worthy description, and declared it “art.” “It’s on a wall between my home office and upstairs bathroom, so I get to experience it multiple times a day,” she says with a laugh. Not taking situations like this too seriously — and instead finding humorous ways to deal with them — has been essential to her as a parent, she explains. “My husband, Bryan, and I realized shortly into our parenting journey that it’s not worth stressing out over everything. If we can laugh when things get nuts and find the humor, we can make it fun for everyone.”
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white wall with paintings and plants

Balancing Seasonal and Year-Round Decor for a Happier Home

If you love making your house look and feel like a home, then you’re bound to have a collection of different kinds of decor stored up everywhere for different festivals and seasons each year. However, this can also make one feel overwhelmed, given that the decor needs to be often changed to match the aesthetic of the season, not to mention the clutter that’s bound to happen when you have way too much decor stored in the house.  Creating and maintaining indoor decor needn’t be that hard - all you need to do is find a good way to balance the decor you use by separating them into two sections: Seasonal decor and year-round decor. Once you’ve done this, things simply get easier.  On that note, here are some tips which will enable you to maintain an easier decor process while also keeping your home clean and clutter-free, let’s get started! Choose decor that’s timeless For starters, make a list of all the decor you want to have around the house all through the year - this could include certain candles or candle holders, carpets, photo frames and paintings, plants, chinaware and crockery, lampshades, and so on. These are pieces that are going to be there all year-round, and you’re rarely going to get rid of them.  That’s why you need to be extremely picky with the color scheme and objects, because you want them to all blend in with the general aesthetic of the house. Once you’ve figured this out, you can store or give away the rest of the general decor, because it’s best to not have them lying around or taking up too much space since this decor isn’t going to be changed anytime soon.  Once you’ve got your year-round decor figured out, you can move on to managing seasonal decor.  How to add seasonal decor to your home This is a pretty easy step. Since you already have your year-round decor in place, you won’t need to completely redo your home every time there’s a festival or new season. All you need to do is add tiny accents here and there, which will give the entire home a new look.  For instance, when Fall rolls in after Spring, all you need to do is switch out the bright flowers and vases for some warm candles and throws. Small changes like this can make a big difference when the colors match the aesthetic of the home.  One of the best ways to keep track of what decor goes where and how you can effortlessly decorate your house each year is by documenting your decor changes each time there’s a change - you can try Memento's video creator to do this and always have the video to refer to each year. Happy decorating! How to manage seasonal decor First things first, make a list of all the seasons and holidays you generally decorate the house for.  If you need help, here are some common decoration themes most homes follow: Christmas New year Easter Thanksgiving Summer Winter Spring Fall If there are other holidays you celebrated, feel free to add them to the list. Once you’ve got this down, you need to figure out how to sort out your decor.  To start with, find the exact number of cartons you need, depending on the different types of decor you have (for Christmas, Spring, Summer, etc). This way, you can label and store them away with ease, and take them out only when you need them.  Once you’ve done this, you can start separating your decor into the different cartons. Keep in mind that you also have year-round decor already in place, which will mostly stay put throughout the year.  This will give you an idea of exactly how much decor you need for each season, and how many unwanted things you need to get rid of. Once sorted through, you can store them away in the garage, store room, or loft.  For more ideas on how to make fill your home with joy, check out 33 Ideas for a Happy Home.
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Live Happy Italy's Secret to Happiness

Italy’s Secret to Happiness

As a born and bred American, I’ve always believed in hard work, independence, productivity and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. I loved the rat race. Then I moved to Italy—and culture shock set in. Everything was different—and it all moved so slowly! Yet, somehow, everyone seemed much happier. So I got curious. I decided to find out what was generating so much happiness, so effortlessly. Fortunately, my new Italian friends were happy to share (it’s not much of a secret after all). Here are the top five happiness principles, right from the heart of Italian culture: 1. Embrace Art The famed poet Lord Byron called Italy the “garden of the world, the home of all Art yields.” He was right. Everything in Italy is beautiful, from the ornate cathedrals and pristine marble fountains to the most dilapidated stone alleys bursting with flowers and greenery. Italy’s beauty is not an accident. Birthplace of the Renaissance, Italians know the power of art and culture. For centuries they’ve invested in artists and artisans to surround themselves with breathtaking architecture, intricate frescos, and gorgeous statues, not to mention divine music, theater and opera. They also embrace the art of clothing. From high-fashion Milan to the littlest hamlet, Italians love to look good. This is called “la bella figura,” the art of creating a good impression. Even Italian food is exquisite, composed of colorful herbs, fruits and vegetables arranged with the most artistic flare. Each plate is a work of art. It's hard not to be happy when you’re surrounded by (and creating) so much beauty. *Takeaway: Invite art and beauty into every aspect of your life and spend time in gorgeous places. 2. Walk All the Time, Climb All the Stairs Here in Tuscany, most towns are perched atop steep hills or nested in tiny valleys, with narrow streets and steep climbs. Cars can’t navigate them well and are often not allowed. So, people walk. Everywhere. This gets them outside in nature, breathing the fresh air, interacting with neighbors, and using their bodies. According to blue zones research, continuous movement like this (rather than just stopping by the gym a few times a week) is key to happiness, longevity and overall life satisfaction. *Takeaway: Walk everywhere you possibly can, and stop to chat with people along the way. Make continuous movement your way of life. 3. Eat Little, But Well My Italian friends say, “Mangia poco, ma bene.” This means “Eat little, but well.” Italians are culinary experts but unlike Americans, they don’t eat much. Instead, they savor small portion sizes, with an emphasis on vegetables and hearty servings of antioxidant-rich olive oil. They also follow breakfast and lunch (and often dinner) with a tiny teacup of caffé. It’s not much, usually just a single shot, but this practice stimulates digestion and allows everyone to linger together longer, savoring the atmosphere and company, which is key to the Italian way of life. *Takeaway: Eat really excellent, healthy food but not very much of it, and always share your meals with friends and family. 4. Take Your Time It’s not just meals Italians savor; they love taking their time just about everywhere (except driving). Everything moves slowly, appointments include plenty of time to chat, and it takes a long time to get things done. The work day is punctuated with lots of breaks for socializing and offices are closed frequently for holidays. In fact, many Italians take a whole month off from work each year. “Domani, domani,” is a common saying here. It means “tomorrow, tomorrow,” or “don’t worry about it, there’s always tomorrow.” In America, we do the opposite, we move fast, push hard, and stress about everything – and to what end? At the end of the day, life is short, precious, and meant to be savored. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” *Takeaway: Take your time. Allow yourself to enjoy the company of others and savor the sweet experience of simply being alive. Don’t rush. 5. Embrace Community For centuries, Italians have emphasized social life. The very structure of their cities was built around it, with large central piazzas for gathering and socializing. This prime real estate could have been more profitable as residential or business units, but the Italians have long known that gathering together is key to a healthy society, philosophical exploration, robust political discourse, and downright enjoyment. In Italy, community, friends and especially family are everything. They spend as much time together (and supporting one another) as possible. *Takeaway: Build your community. Host meals with friends and family. Invite someone to go for a walk. Spend time outside chatting with neighbors. Take time to connect with others throughout the day, every single day. These five elements blossom from the very heart of Italian culture. They are key to the Italians’ exceptional ability to generate happiness and savor life. So give them a try and enjoy “La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life) yourself. Read more from Andrea Culletto at Self-love wave rings are a gentle (and sparkly reminder) to love yourself unconditionally.
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Cat cuddling with it's owner

7 Happy Benefits of Being a Cat Lover

One of the perks of owning a cat is that you get to have an adorable furball for a friend. But did you know that being a cat lover comes with other numerous psychological benefits? For instance, according to one Australian study, cat owners have better psychological health compared to people who don’t own pets. Also, watching those purr-fect online videos of Sparta cat or Simon’s cat does more than make you laugh. It also improves your mood and mental health according to a recent study published in the journal of Computers in Human Behaviour. Let’s look at more unique benefits of being a cat lover, shall we? 1. Better Sleep If you’re a restless sleeper, maybe you should consider adopting a fur-baby. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50% of cat owners invite their felines to bed, and for good reason. Several studies report that sleeping with your feline gives you comfort and a sense of security. Besides, a cat purring can also help soothe you to sleep. So, unless you’re allergic to cats or you have a playful feline who is likely to scratch or punch you every time you change your sleeping position, maybe it’s time you considered allowing your kitty into your bed. 2. Lowers Stress Levels Nothing feels better than a warm soft cuddle from your cat on a cold winter evening. Undoubtedly, cats have a way of making us happy and there is science-backed evidence to prove it. Researchers from Washington State University who used stressed university students as participants in a recent study found out that the students' stress levels reduced when they petted a cat or a dog. Cats have also been used in hospitals and addiction centers as therapeutic pets to reduce stress levels among patients. Chelsea Hudson, a therapist at Chicago-based CitySpace Counselling further explains that cats give unconditional love and can provide a safe escape for people looking to find love or those trying to distract themselves from everyday stressors. The good news is that even if you have a grumpy cat, you can make them love you so that you can enjoy the benefits of petting or cuddling with your pet. 3. Helps You Cope With Grief In addition to relieving stress, cats can help you deal with grief. Your pet offers consistent companionship which can help you deal with feelings of loneliness when you’re grieving. Further, a cat won’t expect you to behave in a certain way which is often the case with human companionship. With your furball, they’re no expectations, which helps you deal with grief more naturally. Besides, cats can be particularly beneficial during times of grief as they’re independent animals. In times of mourning, you may be too overwhelmed to do everyday responsibilities such as taking care of your dog. The good thing about cats is that they don’t need constant care. A cat will also quickly adapt to changes in your routine or behavior without a fuss. 4. Companionship Cats make great companions. They’re adorable, affectionate, and have lots of love to offer. According to one study, having a cat for a pet is almost the same as having a romantic partner. Another survey conducted by Cats Protection, most of the surveyed cat owners noted that their pets were great companions. Due to their affectionate nature, cats will often initiate contact. They also know how to reciprocate kindness and bond with their owners. 5. The Purr Helps Heal Joint Injuries A cat’s purr can lull you to sleep. But did you know that the same sound has healing abilities? Cat purring can lower your stress levels due to the release of endorphins, “the feel-good hormones.” Reduced stress levels translate to a quicker recovery for people with injuries. Moreover, cat purring has a healing effect on injured human bones and muscles. Cat purring is associated with certain sound frequencies that have a healing effect on the human body. It’s believed that sound frequencies that fall between 18-35 HZ have a healing effect on injured bones, tendons and muscles. Since a cat’s purr has a frequency of between 20-140 HZ it’s said to have a positive healing effect on joint injuries. 6. Improves Relationships Pets are a wonderful way to start conversations and meet new people. Although cat owners are believed to be more introverted than dog owners, a recent Carroll University study showed that they’re more open-minded, smart, and sensitive. In yet another study, pet researcher Dr. June Nicolls found that men with cats were perceived to be more attractive, nicer, and more caring by women. 7. Good for Your Health As mentioned earlier, petting your pet helps release oxytocin, “the love hormone,” which helps lower your stress levels. Also, a cat’s purr can help lower your blood pressure and calm your nerves. In a study conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute, the researchers found out that snuggling with your cat reduces your risk of suffering from a heart attack. Cats can also prevent allergies, especially in children. A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy noted that teenagers that were exposed to cats in their early years were less likely to be allergic to cats. The theory is that due to being exposed to cats at an early age, a child will develop an immune system that can combat different kinds of allergies including cat allergies. There is a ton of scientific evidence showing that being a cat lover has numerous benefits. So, go on and snuggle next to your fur-baby, as it will not only make you feel safe but you’ll also feel loved and happier.
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Live Happy's Tips to Say Goodbye to Clutter

Say Goodbye to Clutter and Enjoy the Freedom of Letting Things Go

Clutter not only junks up your space, it also seriously messes with your health, happiness and productivity. According to studies from Princeton University’s Neuroscience Institute and UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, our overstuffed homes rob us of focus, drain our energy, spike stress levels, invite depression and leave us perpetually searching for our keys. But take heart. You can outwit clutter in less time than you’d think. Start with small steps to embrace the things that uplift you and dispense with those that get in the way. End the Paper Chase Find a basket, bowl or tray large enough to corral all incoming paper—mail, catalogs, school forms, coupons, receipts, invitations and warranties. Then marvel as your counters and tabletops magically resurface, and you can instantly find any paper you need. Go through the contents once a week with shredder, recycling bin and folders close at hand. Scan any info you don’t need in hard copy form, sign up for paperless billing and automatic payments and ditch manuals that can be found online. Edit mail preferences at (free) and ($2 fee). Think Small Choose a space you can clear in one short burst—a single shelf, a drawer, a section of a counter, a dresser top, even a laundry-burdened chair. Once done, declare that area strictly off limits to future clutter. Continue with a new spot each day. (Note: Moving the clutter to another space is cheating.) Lose the Baggage Give yourself permission to let go of incomplete art or craft projects lying around in varied states of disarray. Ditto for workout equipment, supplies from past careers or musical instruments you don’t use. You won’t miss their constant nagging. Trust us. Find a Good Home Shoes will pile by the front door until the end of time if you don’t add a rack, basket or other storage solution. Likewise, perpetually lost items— keys, eyeglasses, phones and wallets—also need a place to go. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals reports the average American loses a year of his or her life searching for things. We know you have better things to do. Think Digital You can’t work efficiently if folders, files and icons look like a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle dumped onto your computer screen. Neither can your computer. Dedicate 15 minutes a day for a week to reorganize, delete old downloads, archive folders, clean out your inbox and uninstall and delete apps you don’t use. Trim the Excess Most cooks utilize the same pots, pans and bakeware repeatedly, so edit to your chosen few. Place utensils and small gadgets in a container. If you pull an item out for use, wash it and return it to its original kitchen spot. With the exception of annual helpers like a candy thermometer or turkey baster, anything unused after a month can go. Box It Up Indecision is clutter’s best friend. Whenever you catch yourself saying, “I’ll deal with it later,” place the item in question in a maybe box that you seal and tuck out of sight for six months. (Put a note on your calendar when to check back in.) If you didn’t need or miss anything in the box in that time frame, take it unopened to charity that day. And on that note, if you stumble across a box of things you forgot you had, consider that donation decision already made. Write Away Gather all your pens, pencils and markers alongside a paper pad to test with scribbles. Select 20 winners, then donate the rest. Buy from Home “Shop” your own wardrobe as though you’re in a boutique seeing each item for the first time. Select only those items that you’d buy today. When finished, hang your “purchases” back in the closet; bag unselected items for consignment or charity. Don’t panic if your closet looks spare. You’ve just done yourself the favor of identifying your core style—a feat comparable to upgrading from a department store’s jam-packed clearance rack to the must-have apparel on the mannequins at your favorite boutique. Live with your capsule wardrobe before filling in the gaps. And look for a common thread among your rejects to avoid future error. Clear the Calendar Unnecessary appointments or meetings count as clutter, too. Only spend time on things that matter to you. Celebrate Simplicity After each holiday, cull decor that didn’t make it to this year’s party, whether ornaments, an inflatable yard witch or that whimsical set of Easter Bunny plates. What you do with the surprise discovery of any chocolate treats is up to you. Supply Only the Demand Save time and money by gathering duplicates, such as batteries, sticky notes, lightbulbs and rolls of tape. Keep what you’ll realistically need in the next year and donate the rest. Got 5 Minutes? Nab empty cardboard boxes and grocery bags for recycling. Unsubscribe from three email newsletters (of course you’ll want to keep Live Happy’s). Toss expired products and empty containers from the medicine cabinet. Recycle mismatched plastic containers and lids. Clean the car using one bag for trash and another for items to relocate. Outwit Common Clutter Cons I might need that. If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s not serving your needs. Hypothetical uses infringe on how you really live. It’s an heirloom. You can love Grandma without loving her crystal. Realize the tug is about the memory, not the thing. Take a photo or keep just one goblet, then pass the rest along. I paid a lot for that! Maybe so, but now it’s costing your peace of mind, too. I don’t want to waste. Donating extras is sharing the wealth. I could give that to so and so. With few exceptions, don’t get bogged down in a Plan B. This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of Live Happy magazine.
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Young woman smiling outside.

5 Things You Can Do Every Day to Improve Your Mental Health

As the importance of mental health increasing becomes less of a taboo subject and more people are starting to advocate for their own well-being, there is still plenty to do to help bring more awareness to this issue. For example, your employer can offer you mental health days but if you can’t recognize that you need that time off to recover, your mental health will continue suffer. If you experience symptoms such as excessive worrying, lack of energy and social avoidance, these can be warning signs that something is not quite right and you may need a mental health check-up. It’s always good to keep in touch with your physician or mental health provider to find out if you need a simple mental health screening or any additional mental health treatment. Here are 5 things you can do every day to help get your mental health back to a good place. Fight Loneliness With Flow One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it exacerbated our growing loneliness problem through isolation and anxieties about catching the virus. According to the American Psychological Association, the whole world experienced an increase in loneliness, which can have negative effects on long-term health and well-being, including depression and anxiety. While we found ourselves with unexpected and excess amounts of free time, it seems we didn’t know what to do with it. New research released by Penn State suggests we can fight off those feelings of loneliness by actively engaging in activities that put us in a state of flow. These are meaningful activities that help “stop time” and require active engagement, such as playing music, painting, writing, learning, and even video games. These activities should have healthy balance of challenge vs. skill, giving you a sense of control and a loss of self-consciousness. Researchers believe as the time passes effortlessly, your sense of loneliness will decrease and you will feel more fulfilled, which boosts your well-being. Sleep on a Schedule If the world is giving you plenty of think about, staying up all night with excessive worry won’t help anything. Whatever it is, it will be there in the morning and you’ll have a fresh mind to tackle any problems you may face. There are no shortages of studies touting the many benefits of sleep and the harm from a lack of it, but according to research from the University of Michigan, if you have an irregular sleep schedule, you are actively contributing to your bad moods and even depression. The key is to get into regular sleeping routines. That means the same sleep and wake times so your circadian rhythm will stay balanced. Making your sleep schedule a priority is not only good for your mental health, but your physical health too. To help you stay on track, there are plenty of apps on your phone or smart watch that will give you helpful reminders. Mind-Boosting Benefits of Pets We already know the many joys that pet companionship can bring into our lives, but it may also be good for your brain health, too. A new study released by the American Academy of Neurology suggests that long-term pet ownership, especially for five years or more, has been linked to slower decline in cognition as we age. Our furry friends act as a buffer to stress and keep us physically active which increases those feel-good chemicals in your body that lowers our stress levels and reduces depressive symptoms. Not only is this good for our mental health but contributes to our physical health as well. Practice Mindfulness Daily Daily mindfulness practices, such as meditation, is great for reducing your daily stress and keeping you in a calmer state. This act of self-care gives you time to check in with yourself, find some mental clarity and help you regulate your emotions. The goal is to prevent your mind from ruminating on things of the past that may be wearing your down, but also keep from inventing future events that haven’t even happened. Staying in the present moment, even if just for 10 minutes, can give you a clearer picture about your day and help you make better decisions. There are plenty of apps that offer guided practices of mindfulness, such as Headspace or Calm, but you can also take a moment out of your day to find some quiet time with breathing exercises. A good rule of thumb when you are feeling particularly anxious is to breath in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, then exhale for six seconds. Repeat these five to ten times and you’ll instantly feel the difference. Prescribe a Nature Break The correlation between nature and mental health has long been explored by science. Researchers contend that there are mental and physical benefits to spending time outdoors in nature, whether it’s forest bathing, strolling through a city park or backyard gardening. These short “green” respites help alleviate feelings of stress, boost our moods and give us the fresh air our bodies need to properly function. According to Charles Hall, Ph.D., a professor and Ellison Chair in International Floriculture in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, one positive outcome from the global pandemic is the more people are turning their interest into “plant-related” hobbies, such as gardening and plant care. His research recently published in the Journal of Environmental Horticulture suggests that spending time with and nurturing plants can have multiple mental health benefits, including: improved happiness and well-being; enhanced memory retention; anxiety and stress reduction; increased creativity, productivity and attention; and enhanced self-esteem. Good Mental Health Should be Practiced Every Day With the proper tools in your mental health tool box, you can work on your mental health every day to help temper those negative feelings that add more stress and anxiety to your life. Just like with our physical health, mental health is not something we should ignore. Taking the proper care to nurture our state of well-being can improve our life satisfaction and cultivate more long-lasting happiness.
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Live Happy's 7 Ways Art Therapy Benefits Mental Health

7 Ways Art Therapy Benefits Your Health

The fundamental principle behind many expressive therapies is to uncover and address subconscious issues that may have been influencing an individual’s behaviors. And while this is a common aim for many different types of therapy, the way expressive therapy activities differ is that they try to bring about these issues with active, sensory, and usually physical experiences. Listed below are 7 ways expressive therapy benefits your health. 1. Art Increases Brain Connectivity and Plasticity. Did you know that every time you engage in a new or complex activity, your brain creates new connections between brain cells? Brain Plasticity or neuroplasticity is the brains ability to grow connections and change throughout your lifetime. Creating art, whether your niche is pottery, painting, interpretive dance or playing guitar, stimulates connections between various paths in the brain. Studies show that by creating these connections, your brain is increasing psychological resilience and resistance to stress! 2. Art Boosts Self-Esteem. As a child, having your artwork displayed on the refrigerator door was the ultimate compliment. It gave you a sense of accomplishment and boosted your self-esteem. Today, hanging your latest piece of artwork on the wall can give you the same feeling. Creating art increases the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Excellent for motivation, dopamine boosts drive, focus, and concentration and enables you to plan ahead so you can reach your goals and resist impulses. Crafting hobbies (photography, woodworking, knitting, DIY home repair etc.) increase dopamine, ward off depression and protect the brain from aging. 3. Art Eases the Burden of Chronic Health Conditions. Millions of people worldwide are dealing with chronic health conditions, and additionally the anxiety, depression and stress that can often accompany them. Not only does art allow patients to take their mind off their illness for a while and focus on positive life experiences, art has been known to help the patients maintain the identity of who they were before their diagnosis. Art also reduced stress for patients by lowering levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. 4. Creating Art Relieves Stress.  Creating art provides a distraction, giving your brain a break from its usual thoughts. Activities such as drawing, sculpting, painting, dance, music and photography are rewarding hobbies that lower your stress levels and keep you mentally clear and calm. The meditative-like state of mind you experience when immersed in an art project allows your mind to focus and temporarily push aside all worries. One of the most popular art trends to manage stress relief are adult coloring books. 5. Art Encourages Creative Thinking. Dr. Lawrence Katz, author of: Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness, found that mental decline was due mainly to loss of communication between brain cells, not necessarily from the death of brain cells. There are several art benefits that can exercise your brain and keep you mentally fit. Art enhances problem-solving skills, unlike in math, there is not one correct answer in art. Creative thinking allows you to come up with unique solutions and grow new neurons in the process. 6. Art Encourages Self-Awareness and Expression.  Creativity is said to be the route to authenticity. As we create, we reach into the depths of what we think and believe, therefore, the more we create, the more we learn about ourselves. We discover our impulses, habits and desires all through creativity. When we devote the needed time and energy to create, we find ourselves able to better express ourselves to the world on a regular basis. 7. Creating Mandalas Can Minimize Symptoms of Trauma.  In 2007, researchers David Rosen and Patti Henderson conducted a study dividing 36 people suffering from PTSD into two groups. One group drew mandalas for 20 minutes at a time for 3 days in a row, and the second group was instructed to draw an object for the same period of time. At a one-month follow-up, the participants who had drawn the mandalas showed a decrease in symptoms of trauma, where those who had not drawn the mandalas did not. The usage of expressive therapy can help tap into the mind and body connection, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, recent studies have proclaimed that 45 minutes of creative activity a day can significantly reduce stress. Whether through art, play, music, movement, enactment, or creative writing, expressive therapies stimulate the senses, thereby “sensitizing” individuals to untapped aspects of themselves which facilitates self-discovery, change, and reparation.
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Good Food Good Mood by Live Happy

Good Food, Better Mood

Improve your diet to jump-start your path to optimum mental health. Feeling blue? You’re not alone. Many people struggle with depression. This fact is reflected in pharmaceutical drug sales—today, one in six adults is on or has taken some type of psychiatric drug. These drugs are usually prescribed with the intent of correcting what many doctors believe to be a root cause of depression: a chemical imbalance in the brain. But others are refuting this theory, offering a new approach that asks whether depression originates not in our brains, but on our plates. Happy Bites This burgeoning field of research, called nutritional psychiatry, is actively exploring the link between diet and depression. We’ve known for some time that what you eat is closely linked to your mental state. But a recently published randomized control trial has offered evidence that cleaning up your diet may actually lift your spirits. The small study, dubbed the SMILES trial,  involved patients who both suffered from clinical depression and consumed lots of junk food. Half of the 67 patients were enrolled to a diet that added fresh vegetables, fish, extra-virgin olive oil and higher-quality meats. The other half continued with standard care. At the end of three months, the group who cleaned up their diets saw major improvements on a common depression scale. By eating better, their depression symptoms improved on average by about 11 points, and roughly a third of them had scores so low that they no longer met the clinical criteria for depression. Meanwhile, control group members improved their scores by only about four points on average. Just two of them (or 8 percent) achieved remission. Gut Feeling One of the proposed mechanisms by which diet may improve mood is through its impact on your gut. Often referred to as the second brain, your gastrointestinal tract houses trillions of bacterial cells. These microbes have the potential to modulate health in powerful ways, though admittedly, we are at the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding just how. Nonetheless, microbes produce powerful chemicals, including many vitamins, which then get absorbed into the bloodstream. Many of these chemicals are beneficial, such as butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid studied for its anti-inflammatory and brain-fortifying effects. But this ability also swings in the other direction: Certain inflammatory bacterial components are also able to enter circulation, if we fail to mind the needs of our intestinal immigrants. As illustrated in the trial above, good things seem to happen when we consume more vegetables and less processed foods, in part because vegetables provide fiber that our beneficial bacteria eat up, churning out goodies like butyrate. Processed foods on the other hand, due to the refined, pulverized grains from which they’re made, as well as the usual chemical additives, drive inflammation. This heightened immune response may be causally related to symptoms of depression. With so many people using prescription drugs to treat mental health, these kinds of insights are sorely needed now more than ever. And while depression is a multifaceted condition, likely unique for every individual, it isn’t hard to fathom that our moods, like so many other aspects of our health, have become victims to the modern world. Max’s 10 Genius Foods Extra-virgin olive oil Avocados Blueberries Dark chocolate Eggs Dark leafy greens Grass-fed beef Broccoli Wild salmon Almonds Brain-Boosting Raw Chocolate Dark chocolate has been in the research journals a lot of late for its cognition-boosting effects. To construct a sugar-free recipe, I enlisted my good friend Tero Isokauppila. Tero is the founder of the mushroom company Four Sigmatic, but he’s also one of the most knowledgeable people I know on cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate. What you’ll need: 1 cup finely chopped cacao butter 1 cup extra-virgin coconut oil 2 tablespoons sugar-free sweetener of choice (I recommend monk fruit, erythritol, or stevia) 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder Pinch of sea salt 3 packets Four Sigmatic Lion’s Mane Elixir (or 1 heaping teaspoon of lion’s mane extract), optional 1 cup unsweetened raw cacao powder, plus more if needed What to do: Put the cacao butter in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pan of just-simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water and keep it over low heat; this is important for preserving the enzymes and brain-nourishing properties of the cacao). Stir until completely melted. Add the coconut oil and use a whisk or milk frother to combine until the fats are emulsified. Add the sweetener, vanilla powder, salt and lion’s mane, if using. Whisk again to combine. Slowly add the cacao powder to the mixture until it reaches the consistency of thick cream, adding more if needed. Pour the mixture into ice cube trays and place in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes to harden. Let them soften for 5 to 10 minutes after taking them out of the freezer before serving. (From the book GENIUS FOODS: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere. Copyright © 2018 by Max Lugavere. Published on March 3, 2018 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.) Max Lugavere is a filmmaker, health and science journalist and brain food expert. His latest book, Genius Food: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life, is a comprehensive guide to brain optimization.
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Thoughtful serious african professional business man sit with laptop thinking of difficult project challenge looking for problem solution searching creative ideas lost in thoughts at home office desk

Building Emotional Resilience When Dealing with Events Outside Your Control

There is a lot happening in our world today, and these last few years have spun us out of control. Anxiety is high anytime there is added uncertainty. Most of life is uncertain, that we can agree on. However, when our daily routines and the people, events, and circumstances we depend on for consistently are disrupted, how do we cope? The answer is through normalcy and celebration. Yes, as upsetting as this may seem to some, we must create and acknowledge life’s little joys, no matter how dire the circumstances. What works for you may not be what someone else needs. Can we stay open to allow others the experience and control they choose to create? We can, and our emotional intelligence will help. We can all increase or use our ability to understand, manage our emotions positively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Start with what we can control Recent events in Ukraine have forced families out of their homes, into shelters, and some into refugee camps. These events are the worst imaginable, and yet some still find life, love, happiness and joy through the smiles, songs being shared, and simple life events that are posted on social media. This is what so many fight for, work for, and believe in. The simple song of a young child being sung in her native tongue brought smiles, tears, connection, and a reprieve from the harshness of their current circumstance. A small kitten being rescued from a river with a willing participant and a cardboard box. Meals are cooked and shared. Many found care and concern for life still exists in our world. We are not a world only filled with disaster, hardship, and oppressiveness. There is a great need to find the simplest reason to smile, remember why so many are fighting for life and the life they are fighting for. This all is about what you can control. Often when in despair, we feel we have no control and therefore no hope. What is needed most in our times of struggle is just that, hope. Hope a future exists for us and loved, hope for the simplicities of life. Embrace all of your emotions This is not to say we as individuals, a society, and a world should not be reverent or respectful of suffering. We all process pain, disappointment, and disaster differently. The pandemic has created an atmosphere of survival and fear around the world. Many celebrations had to be put on hold, and some never happened. Birthdays, weddings, family reunions, even the celebration of the life of a loved one departed was taken. There has been a lot to feel sad about. Seeing people gathered in a small room with smiles on, a young girl proudly standing on a chair belting out “Frozen” during a crisis in her country warmed my heart as it did her onlookers and those with her. It was uplifting for sure. We all need moments to get out of the sadness, loss, and suffering. Being happy is a choice. Not one we want to make all the time or feel like we can. But we must keep happiness close at hand. We must provide opportunities for relief, moments of feeling hope, love, acceptance, and joy. We deal with events outside our control by controlling what we can We can’t control the weather, but I can plan for an umbrella. We can’t control another’s reaction, but we can control our behavior and make a choice for sharing love and joy. We can’t control a lot of life. This is not new. However, we reduce our frustration, stress, and anxiety by taking action on what we can control. For some, it will be a reminder that life is still good. For others, it will be a donation or a way to volunteer. For others, a vote. What can you control? What can you do that makes you feel just a little better? Maybe it will be watching a cat being rescued, a stranger donating a stroller or youthful reminder of a familiar song. We can choose to find moments of control, especially through connection and caring of others. We can choose to acknowledge a smile on another’s face and be reminded that there is hope, and happiness still exists. Stephanie Bolster McCannon is an Organizational Psychologist, published author of BolsterUp!: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Happy Healthy Human, and CEO of BolsterUp, a well-being coaching company that supports emotional, mental, and physical mastery.
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