How to have meaningful conversations to nurture your relationships

As human beings our nature is to socialize and to create deep connections with others. That’s what brings us the most happiness. 

Something that people usually think when they hear the word “relationship” is that it means romance, but that’s not the case. We nurture our souls from all types of relationships, like parents, siblings, friends, coworkers, and many others. It’s a myth to think that one person can provide everything that you need emotionally. The connection you have with your husband is not the same as the one you have with your mother or your best friend. This doesn’t mean one is less important than the other. They all add value to your happiness and wellbeing and should be treated with the same care. 

Relationships must be nurtured constantly. Just as we crave for connection, we also suffer deeply when that connection is broken. When that happens, anxiety reigns and our overall health can be damaged. 

I have a very large family, where everyone is very loud and is always eager to make their voice heard. If you were ever in one of my family’s parties you’d think that communication is king here. Never a silent moment. But that’s not really the case. Lately, I’ve been analyzing the different relationships in my family and I noticed that even though we all talk a lot, many relationships are pretty broken. When I stopped to listen to what was actually being said, I noticed that people were mostly trying to make their point, defend their argument, attack the other or limit the conversation to superficial stories about people who weren’t even in the room just so they wouldn’t talk about the elephant in the room. The reason: there’s too much talk, but too little conversation. 

Listening is one of the hardest things to do. But it’s one of the most important things we must learn to build healthy and lasting relationships, as well as care for the ones we’re already in. So that’s how I got very interested in listening techniques, like mindful listening and safe conversations. These techniques are not just to repair relationships that are struggling, but also to prevent a strong one from debilitating. 

I hear you and you hear me 

For this post I’ll talk about Safe Conversations. I believe this is a wonderful technique because it touches two key aspects of a relationship: the need to have an understanding through conversation and the need to feel safe in each other’s company. As I mentioned above, this is something we should have in all types of relationships. 

The technique was created by the founders of Imago Therapy,  Harville Hendrix, Ph.D, and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. The objective is to actively listen to the other in a safe space, free of judgement and without criticizing, in order to understand our differences and similarities, and to see the other’s point of view not from where you stand, but from where he or she stands.

Something very important that they point out is that to create a safe space it’s not just about the verbal communication, but also about the non-verbal. Specifically, they mention eye contact. You don’t have to say anything, but if you’re glaring at the other person, your eyes say that you’re judging and you’re not open to what they have to say. This will either prevent them from saying what’s on their mind, or they’ll say it in a defensive way. So, to get started, turn it into a gaze, so the other person feels you’re open for this. 

The creators of this technique consider there are three foundational tools to have a safe conversation. Here are the steps.

Mirroring – This step is where you actually listen to the other person and make an active effort to understand what they are saying, feeling or experiencing. It’s not about what you interpret, but what is actually being said. To do so, after the person talks you follow up with a summary: Let me see if I’ve got it, you said (add info here). Don’t assume you got it right. Go for an accuracy check: Did I get that? Now, dig deeper: Is there more about that? 

Validation – After going through what the person has to say, they’ll probably feel vulnerable. This is a moment to reinforce that this is a safe place. So continue with a phrase that implies validation. What they are saying has value, so make sure they know it with something like: That makes sense to me.

Empathy – Now is the moment to process what you’ve heard. Don’t think about how this makes you feel, but how this makes the person you’re talking to feel. Now that you’ve thought about it, start the conversation with this phrase: I imagine you might be feeling (add your information here).

As you can probably imagine, this goes both ways. 

Something important to have in mind is that this is a process, and it won’t be easy at first. Relationships require time and dedication, especially when a part of it has been broken. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to trust and to feel safe won’t happen in one conversation, but with time it is possible. Don’t give up if the first time doesn’t go as expected. Try again. Then make it part of your routine and, with time, it’ll even become the normal way to communicate with the people you care about. A conversation has more value when it goes deeper and when what’s being transmitted is more than just words, but also emotions.

What is HIIT training? Is it for you?

There’s always a new fitness trend to try, and I think that’s great news. We’re all different, with our own interests, needs, likes and lifestyles. And not just regarding taste, our bodies are different too. This means that not all bodies react the same way to a type of workout. So having a wide variety to choose from is refreshing.

I like to try these new trends at least once. This way I can see if I connect with the workout, if I enjoy doing it, if it adapts to my lifestyle and how my body responds to it. 

One of the workouts that has grown in popularity is the high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. What HIIT consists of are short bursts of high-intensity exercises, followed by a short period of rest.

This training has become very popular because it doesn’t take much time, and those who have tight schedules (including myself) appreciate this. The idea is that the intervals are short, but to compensate, the exercises are very intense. This efficiency even got HIIT a spot in the American College of Sports Medicine’s top fitness trends for 2020.

How does it work?

HIIT workouts are a combination of high and low intensity. You perform a period of really intense exercise, then either rest or do a low intensity exercise for a little while, and then you repeat. You’ll find some workouts that focus on aerobic training, but there are others that combine aerobic with resistance training. 

The objective is to get your heart pumping. These exercises increase your heart rate at least 80 percent of its maximum capacity during the high intensity moments, which tend to last from one to five minutes. When you’re exercising you’ll feel that you’re giving your max, and the circuits will feel like a challenge, but don’t worry, it’ll all be over in a few seconds. 

Nonetheless, when I heard about putting my heart pumping in an intense way I couldn’t help but wonder if this is good, if this is healthy. In a nutshell, it’s much healthier than I thought. As a matter of fact, it improves heart health. 

A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine says that cardiorespiratory fitness (CPR) is key to combat morbidity and mortality. CPR refers to the capacity of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to skeletal muscles to produce the energy the body needs during physical activity. So, what the study found out is that high-intensity interval training is superior to moderate-intensity continuous training in improving cardiorespiratory fitness. 

And it’s not only pertinent to work on your CRF as you grow older, it’s very important to do when you’re young. Healthy CRF is positively associated with cardiovascular health, academic achievement, and mental well-being in young people. However, only 40% of U.S. youth currently have a healthy CRF.

Will it help you lose weight? 

So we already know that HIIT is time-efficient and it’s good for your heart. What about your figure? 

Exercising is always good to burn calories. However, when you’re doing HIIT it’s a little tricky. By default this training is meant to be short, so the shorter it is, the less calories it’ll burn. For weight loss, workouts should be a little longer, around 25 to 30 minutes (including warm-up and cool-down). Consistency is also important, so you should be doing this three times a week. However, for efficient weight loss, it’s not just about the exercise, it’s also about the diet (stay tuned for a post on calories vs carbs, and how that affects your weight).

Nonetheless, there are studies that show that even in short intervals it does burn fat. Running in short, intense intervals decreases body fat while increasing aerobic capacity.

Something very important to consider is not to miss warm-up and cool-down. Because of the intensity of the workout it’s very important to prepare your body before the intense training to avoid injuries, and help it settle once the training is over. 

Is this for you?

There are many types of HIIT training, so you should look for the one that suits you the most. 

If you just started exercising, don’t push it. Stick to shorter periods (not even a minute, even) of high intensity, and longer periods of recovery (two or even three minutes). Listen to your body and rest when it asks you to.

How do you know it’s enough? The idea is to get your heart rate to 70 or 90 percent. A heart rate monitor, like the one on a fitbit or an intelligent watch, can be useful. But if you don’t have one just do the math: 220 minus your age. That’s the maximum heart rate, so stay below that number. 

If you have a heart disease or other health problems you shouldn’t do HIIT unless your doctor approves. 

Was it for me? I’ve never been very keen on gym-like workouts. I’m a dancer and I enjoy exercises that touch that nerve much more. However, my schedule is always tight and I can’t be consistent with longer dance routines. So, for me, this was a great alternative. I get to have an efficient workout in a short period of time. And it even helps me be in shape for my dancing classes. When I combine these I feel in better shape and I also feel stronger.

Last tip: for HIIT workouts at home I love the ones MadFit has in her YouTube channel. Here’s one of them:

Figs: Natural sweeteners and great source of fiber

When I was in college I lived in a house with a huge fig tree in the front yard. I left very early in the morning and got back home pretty late, so it was hard to find a good moment to cut the figs. However, on the weekends I enjoyed watching the birds fight over the fresh fruit, and it was a wonderful show. Although they were the first ones to pick the best, ripe figs, from time to time I found a few that were left untouched on the tree and enjoyed them to the fullest.

I don’t live in that house anymore, but I remember that fig tree fondly. Still, my taste in this sweet treat hasn’t diminished. And one great thing about May is that figs are in season!

There are multiple varieties of figs, and the main difference is in color and texture. Also, because of the different varieties there’s more than one fig season each year. The season begins in mid May. It’s usually hard to find figs by mid summer, but they come back in season by late summer and early fall. The ones that you can find during May tend to have a fresher taste, whereas the ones you can find during the fall are sweeter and have a thicker skin. The differences are minimal, though.

There are tons of ways to eat figs, they can be used in salads, turned into jam, in desserts and as snacks or appetizers. They’re eaten both fresh and cooked, and the skin can be eaten too. A quick appetizer can be mixing figs with Serrano ham and melon.  

I love having one or two figs as a snack in the mid afternoon to get something sugary in my system, minus the calories. Since they are a natural sweetener, I sometimes add one or two to my morning smoothie. 

I also love this quick dessert: toast with goat cheese, figs and honey. Delicious! 

Picking figs is key

Figs have a very short shelf life. In the refrigerator they’ll last only a few days, not even a week. And although they might get softer, figs don’t continue to ripen once they are off the tree. Because of that, it’s super important to pick them right. 

Choose those that are soft and plump. Make sure that they don’t have major bruises or tears too. The color must be rich, a deep purplish or brown. And the smell must be sweet, never sour. 

To make them last longer you can always freeze them.

A treat for your body

Figs are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. 

Here’s what they can do for you:

  • Potassium.  This is one of the most important minerals you should consume. One of its benefits is that it helps lower blood pressure. This is important because we tend to have a diet with too much sodium, due to packaged and fast foods, so having something to balance our diet by adding potassium is fundamental. This mineral also helps keep calcium in the bones, making them stronger.     
  • Fiber. Figs are allies for your intestines and your digestion. They have a very high fiber content, so they help you have a healthy bowel movement and prevent constipation. Because of that, eating too many can have a laxative effect, so have them in moderation. High fiber foods also make you feel satisfied, thus reducing hunger and cravings, which is why having figs around as snacks can also help you watch your weight and keep you away from sugary cravings. 
  • Prebiotics. A healthy digestive system requires a good amount of good bacteria to fight infection and help the system digest food. Figs contain prebiotics, which make the good bacteria in the gut better and easier to multiply. 
  • Natural sugar. Because they are very sweet, figs were used as sweeteners in the past. You can use them for this purpose. One fresh fig is about 30 calories. It’s important to know that dried figs provide much more calories, since the sugar becomes concentrated when fruit is dried. 100 grams provides about 200 calories. 
  • Other nutrients. Figs also contain manganese, iron, copper, calcium vitamins A, B, K and C.

Fun fact: figs aren’t technically fruits. They are actually a cluster of inverted flowers!

Have you ever tried mamey fruit?

Mamey fruit is by far my favorite fruit. I love it when spring finally comes because that means I get to eat as much as I want. Because it’s sweet, It’s almost like a comfort food to me. I love it as a smoothie in the morning, or as an afternoon snack during a long work day. I used to eat an afternoon mamey with my grandmother when I was little (she was also a fan), but now, it’s not just that it’s tasty and sweet, but I’m also drawn to it for its multiple benefits it has to your health. 

I love this fruit, but I’m also aware that not many people really know it. So, here’s a small explanation. Mamey is a tropical fruit that grows in Mexico, South and Central America. It’s particularly popular in Mexico, and in the U.S. it’s popularity has recently started growing, mostly in Florida. 

From the outside it resembles a football, with a rough, brown, sandpapery skin. But, just like an avocado, when you open it, it has a soft, creamy texture. Inside it has a vibrant orange color. To eat it, you just have to remove the pit, like you would an avocado, and get the fruit out of the skin. It can be eaten just like that. I love eating it directly from the skin with a spoon, while watching TV, but it’s also great for desserts, like ice cream, or for breakfast smoothies. To a smoothie, you can also add some spices, like cinnamon, vanilla, ginger or nutmeg, and nuts, since they mix wonderfully well.

The taste is very hard to explain, because mamey is unique. For starters, it’s sweet and tropical, like a mango, but not too sugary. You can also find some hints of apricot, peach or raspberry. Perhaps, even a hint of sweet pumpkin. Knowing when it’s ripe is super important, since it’ll completely change its taste. An unripe mamey is even bitter. The mamey has to be firm, but not hard. 

Why should you eat it? 

Mameys are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Among these are Vitamins C and A, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Phosphorous. Here are three additional reasons to include it in your diet.

  • Let’s start with its color. The reason mamey has such a vibrant orange-reddish meat is called carotenoids. These are powerful antioxidants. Carotenoids are also great for preserving healthy tissues, and contribute to healthy eyes. 
  • A friend for digestion. If you’re looking for something that will help you have a healthier colon, look no further. The recommended daily amount of fiber is from 21 to 38 grams, and this fruit contains 9 grams per cup. Mamey fruits also help combat inflammation. 
  • Keep your nutrients high. One of the causes of anemia is lack of iron in your diet. Not many fruits or vegetables have this mineral, but mamey does. Most importantly, it also contains Vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron.

Pictures by me.

Want to be fit, happy and energized? Just dance

International Dance Day is very special for me. I’ve danced for most of all my life, and I even got a dance certificate while I was in college. I’ve danced many styles, from ballet, to samba, jazz, ballroom dancing and flamenco, to mention a few. However, I hadn’t danced in almost ten years. 

When I started working full-time after college, I stopped dancing. But I never stopped missing it. A silver lining this pandemic had for me was letting me reconnect with this passion. Dance academies opened up to virtual lessons, and, being at home, I had time to take them. Now, I’m dancing five hours each week, and I love it! I never would’ve imagined that in my thirties I’d be dancing on pointe, or doing splits. It took less than a year for my body to remember what it was capable of. 

Dancing is about style and rhythm, but it’s much more than that. It’s actually an amazing physical exercise and a wonderful ally for mental health. 

There are lots of studies that list the benefits of dancing for brain health, emotions, depression, and blood pressure. In addition to burning calories, gaining flexibility and strengthening your muscles, here are five reasons why you should dance, for the sake of your body and your mind.

1 – Keeps your brain sharp – According to researchers, dancing boosts your cognitive function. This type of exercise for brain health is usually attributed to solving crossword puzzles, but in the case of dance, not only does it involve a mental effort, but it mixes it with social interaction; a combination that lowers the risk of dementia.

2 – Improves your balance – dancing has a direct impact on the hippocampus, which is responsible for equilibrium.

3 – Strengthens neural connections. Dancing helps develop the connections related to control of behavior, long-term memory, learning, decision-making and spatial recognition. This happens because this activity integrates several brain functions at once: kinesthetic (movement), rational, musical and emotional. Just feel the music, your brain will do the rest. 

4 – Boosts your mood. A research on Zumba lessons showed that it improves mood, since it increases levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin. And dancing, in general, has even been used as therapy to combat depression. 

5 – Reduces stress – When you dance you fight some of the effects stress has on our body, such as tension and chronic fatigue.

You don’t have to be a professional dancer to enjoy this day. Just turn up the music and let your body move!

Picture: Pexels

Here’s why you should eat more red beets

When I was a little girl I loved it when my grandma cooked beets. I found it fascinating because not only did I like the flavor, but it was like a game. My fingers got purple and I even pretended it was lipstick and I colored my lips. 

This is one of the foods I have a special connection with. And this is why I was very surprised when I found out my husband hated beets. He dislikes the flavor and how they stain everything. I started to think about ways to make him fall for this vegetable and I came up with two ideas: change the recipe and let him know why they’re so good for your body.

When you think about superfoods, red beets are not usually top of mind. However, this root vegetable does magic to your body. They’re low in calories and fat, and are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other essential nutrients. 

5 reasons to include them in your diet

  • Rich in nutrients – they have many of the vitamins you need, like vitamin C, B9 or folate, manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. They’re also high in antioxidants. The list of benefits this brings would be endless, but some of them include improving your skin, helping your liver fight toxins, prevent cancer, boost your immune system, and many more. 
  • Improve digestion – fiber is the king of digestion, and beets are a great source. Having enough fiber in your diet helps absorb nutrients and move the food through your system. This also includes preventing issues like constipation. Just remember that they can change the color of your urine and stools, making them a little red, pink or purple. Don’t worry, that’s normal.  
  • Allies to your heart, circulation and brain power – because beets have a high concentration of nitrates, they can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and keep your brain with the right amount of blood and oxygen to be healthy. Because of this, they improve your memory, and help you think better and learn and faster. Having beets in your diet can also increase your physical condition. If you exercise and want to enhance your performance, this vegetable helps you produce more energy, which you can take to the gym, court or track. If you consume them two or three hours before training or before a game, you’ll see immediate results!
  • Fight inflammation – the reason why beets are this color is because of a pigment called betalain, which has a lot of anti-inflammatory properties. This is a huge problem in many diseases, and having this root as a regular in your diet reduces pain and discomfort.
  • Good for weight loss – because they are high in water and low in calories, they don’t hurt your weight. And, because of the high fiber in them, which reduces appetite and promotes feeling of fullness, you won’t need much more in your plate.

Roasted or raw?

I love beets, no matter the preparation. However, some of my favorite ways to prepare them are roasted with other vegetables like carrots and kale.

I also tend to make beet juice with ginger, carrots and lime. And a great snack is having them raw, grated with lime and salt.

Although the effects are stronger when the beets are raw, the nutrients and benefits aren’t lost if you cook them.

Meditation for the end of a hard-working week

Working eight hours a day — sometimes more — can take a toll on your body. Especially if you tend to have a sedentary lifestyle, you’re probably sitting down with your eyes fixed on the screen for most of the day. 

Since I started working from home because of the pandemic, I realized that even if I worked out everyday I was sitting and barely moving for many hours. I don’t even have to walk to the car anymore! On top of this, the stress of work has an additional impact on the body. By the end of the day I was feeling stiffness all over my body, I had some muscle knots, especially on my neck and shoulders, and my energy and motivation were pretty low. The reason behind this is a mix of being at my desk for many hours, but it also has a mental health element to it.

Have you felt this way too? According to a study published by The Guardian, since the pandemic started, people are working at least two additional hours everyday, take shorter lunch breaks and are feeling more stressed and anxious. Bottom line: you’re not alone.

One of my tactics to deal with this is meditation, but not any kind of meditation: movement meditation. This is my favorite practice to do every Friday. I like doing it about noon, so I can finish my day with energy and I have the right mindset to really disconnect at the end of the day and enjoy the weekend.

Here’s how to do it

There are many types of meditation and movement meditation is one in which you don’t stay still. Movement is what guides you and where you drive your thoughts. You focus on the movement of your body, how it feels and how it connects with your breath. You activate your body and you relax your mind at the same time. 

  Start with your back

  • Stand up. If you prefer to stay sitting make you have room to twist and more your arms.
  • Notice the muscles you use to stand up.
  • Take a deep breath. As you breathe, feel your spine elongating. As if you had a string pulling you up. Feel your neck going up and your shoulders winden. Don’t pull your shoulders back. 
  • Breathe into the spaces between your vertebrae. Elongate your spine more,
  • Let the breath out and relax.
  • Breath in one more time, elongate your spine and stretch your shoulders. 
  • Breathe out and relax.
  • Breathe in. Stretch as much as you can. 
  • Let all your breath out

Move into the head

  • Move your head in circles. Move your chin down, into the right side, let it go back, to the left side and down. 
  • Make one big circle. Stop if you feel any crunches or need to stretch there a little more. Notice any pain or areas of stiffness. 
  • Breathe in and do it one more time. 
  • Breathe out and move your head in the other direction
  • Notice if there are any differences in any other areas.  
  • Do one more circle. Breathe in as you move your head to the back and breathe out as you bring it down.
  • Return your head to neutral. 
  • Move your head to your right and hold it there. Notice as you breathe what you see around you. Notice how far your head moves to the side. 
  • Breathe in and stretch your head up. 
  • Breath out and maybe turn it in a little more. 
  • Breath in and as you breathe out bring it back to the center.
  • Breathe in and as you breathe out move your head to the other side.
  • As you’re breathing in and out, notice how this side is different from the other side.
  • Breathe in and lengthen your neck.
  • Breathe out and pull it a little more. 
  • Return to center. 
  • Move your head to one side and then to the other, as if you were saying no.
  • Breathe in as you turn and out as you bring it back to center. In as you turn to the other side and out as you bring it back to center. 
  • Do it three times and return to center. 
  • Move your ear as if you wanted to touch your shoulder while keeping your shoulders down. If it feels good put your hand on your head and feel the stretch. 
  • Breath into the areas where you feel tightness. 
  • Breath out and then in again. Imagine how the air loosens up all the areas. 
  • Breath out let it relax. Hold it one more breath.
  • Take your hand off, and with your head still tilted, turn it so your nose points to the ground. 
  • Give it one more stretch like this. Feel the stretch for a couple of breaths.
  • Return to neutral and shake your head a little.
  • Move your other ear down to your other shoulder. If it feels right put your hand on top of your head. Only if it feels right. 
  • Breathe into all the tense areas. Have the air open up those areas. As you breathe out relax and feel them soften. Hold for two more breaths. 
  • Remove your hand and then look down, pointing your nose at the ground. Feel that stretch for two breaths.
  • Return to neutral and shake out your neck.

Shoulder rolls

  • Start with small shoulder rolls. Up, front, down and back
  • Gradually make them bigger until you include all your arms. 
  • Notice the difference in the areas of your arms and shoulders. Notice the difference as you change the size of the roll. Find the size of the movement that works for you.
  • Pick the one that fits the best. One more: shoulder up, forward, down and back. 
  • Change direction. This time start as big as you can. Down, back, up, forward. 
  • Gradually make it smaller. Find the size of the movement that works best for you. 
  • Stay in the best movement for you. One more roll.
  • Return your shoulders to neutral and notice your breath.
  • Inhale and bring the shoulders up to your ears.
  • As you exhale, release them down.
  • As you breathe in, raise your shoulders up. Hold for 1, 2, 3, 4. Let it go and breathe out. Repeat. 

Expand your chest

  • Do a few standing cat-cows to open the chest and the back.
  • Put your hands on your knees or upper thighs.
  • When you breathe in, really expand your chest and raise your chin.
  • Breathe out and curve your belly and your shoulders in. 
  • Breathing in, open up your chest and your neck. 
  • Breathing out, roll your chest closed.
  • Repeat two more times. 
  • Breathing out all the air, return your spine to neutral.
  • As you breathe in, raise up and feel your vertebrae open up.
  • As you breathe out, twist to your right. Put your left hand on your right hip and your right hand on your lower back.
  • Breathe in and let in space. 
  • Breathe out and twist a little more. 
  • Hold it for two breaths. Notice what your body and thoughts are telling you. How are you reacting to this pose? 
  • Return to the center.
  • Breathe in and straighten up.
  • Breathe out and twist. Put your right hand on your left hip and your left hand on your lower back. 
  • Hold here for two breaths. Noticing where you’re pushing your body. Can you find that space where you’re stretching but not pushing?
  • Return to center. 

Stretch your legs

  • Sit on the floor and make a V shape with your legs.
  • Breathe in and elongate your spine.
  • Breathe out and lean forward to your right foot.
  • Stay there for a couple of breaths. Pick a pose where you’re stretching, but not pushing. 
  • Breathe in and sit up straight.
  • Now breathe out and go forward to your left foot.
  • Relax forward for two breaths. Hold the space that feels best for you: stretching and relaxing. Open the places you need to be open.
  • Sit up.
  • Now make circles with your right foot. Three breaths to one side and three to the other.
  • Switch to the left foot. Three breaths to one side and three to the other.
  • Stand up again.
  • Use the last minute to make free movements. Choose something that makes you feel good and energized. You can swing your arms from side to side, jump or shake out. Whatever feels best for you.
  • Go back to stillness. Take a deep breath in and now breath out all the air.

You’re ready to go! Body energized and mind relaxed.

Picture: Pexels

How to make your morning orange juice better

When you think about the perfect idea of breakfast you’re most likely going to picture a fresh orange juice. 

A large glass of vivid yellow orange juice is always present in movies, TV shows, commercials and even morning shows, but most importantly it’s present in our childhood memories. 

It’s a fact that food is directly linked to our emotions and our memories. Think about it. Which is the food or dish that you link to a moment in your life that made you feel good, safe, happy?

For me, orange juice is one of my most beloved emotional food memories. I remember when I was about six years old and my grandmother would always make me a freshly squeezed orange juice. Before she gave it to me, she would add a few drops of Vitamin C to make it even better. For some strange reason, I didn’t like orange juice in its natural state, but I loved it with that additional ingredient. 

Now, weekend breakfasts in my house always have an orange juice, or a version of it. I no longer add Vitamin C, but I’ve looked for different additional ingredients to boost it’s nutritious properties. 

First of all, this signature breakfast drink isn’t always the healthiest choice. Bottled orange juice is just a sugary drink. Because of all the process it goes through, the juice loses its nutritious properties and even its taste. So, companies usually add sugar, corn syrup or other artificial flavor, as well yellow food coloring to compensate. For it to actually be nutritious it has to be squeezed directly from the fruit to your glass.  

Here’s how I make it even better

Don’t squeeze. When you just squeeze the orange you lose fiber and oranges are rich in fiber. So, instead, I put the complete peeled orange in the blender and I keep the pulp. 

Add more ingredients. Oranges are rich in vitamin C, but you can always make them richer. So, I add one or two extra fruits, like a tangerine or a couple of guavas. 

The extra elements. I add a bit of fresh ginger root and a little of turmeric powder. These ingredients boost the antioxidants — which the orange already provides — add anti-inflammatory properties and help your digestive system. 

The sweet spot. When oranges aren’t very sweet I add a tiny spoon of organic honey.

Blend it together. Add a little water, blend and serve! This juice will boost the immune system too.

How setting an intention can help you reach your goals easier

Have you ever heard about setting intentions? Have you ever tried it? 

I’d heard about this practice for a while, and people swore by it. I’ve been a journalist for a decade, so I’m pretty driven by facts. I wanted to know what was the power of this practice and if it’s something that actually helped you have a better, healthier life. So I started researching what intentions really are, if they’re actually beneficial, and how to make the most of them.

After I did some research I realized that intentions are a crucial part of what I’ve always believed in. I believe vision is one of the most important things that you should nourish, and I realized intentions just make it more organized. So, for this post I wanted to share with you a little of how I see life, and how intentions have helped me have even more clarity on where I’m going. 

What I believe in is that you cannot walk through life without knowing where you’re going. Uncertainty creates stress, helplessness and apathy. It’s easy to quit on things if you don’t have a reason to do them. And it’s also easy to feel regrets when you find yourself in a situation you dislike, just because you ended up there and did nothing about it. So the best way to prevent this is by having a plan. Of course, you have to be flexible and open, since nothing is ever fixed, but you have to know where and how you want to be. Think about the big picture. How do you see yourself in the near future? Now break it down in categories. How do you see yourself in relationships, in health, in your career? The plan is to get to that place.

Where do intentions come in?

Let’s start with what they are. An intention is a guiding principle for how you want to live your life. It bridges where you are now with where you want to be in the future. 

So now that you have the idea of where you want to be, you start setting goals, which are the milestones. I’ll cover goals in another, more detailed post, but let’s think about the basics of a goal: they have to be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timebound). Goals are these key moments that get you to where you want to be, and they are very exact, but it can be a little tiring thinking about them everyday.

Here’s where intentions come in. They don’t have to be measured or defined with precision. They’re a statement you believe in that helps you get clarity of what you want and why you want it, so you can take the best steps towards it and stay motivated. They don’t even have to be something you plan ahead. You can have an intention for your day or even for the meal you’re about to prepare yourself. 

Setting an intention gives you focus and motivation. This helps you prioritize, make the most of your time, and make better choices. Be clear on what you want and where you’re headed and intentions will be the driving force to get you there. 

Set an intention

Let’s get this started. Think about why you’re reading this blog. Why do you want to know more about health? About self-care? What motivates you to look for a healthier lifestyle? (You can write this down if it’s easier for you)

Now think about what you want from your health. How do you want to see yourself in the future regarding your health and wellbeing? 

Once you have that picture in your head write down how you’ll be. It’s best to use an affirmation like “I will” instead of something more vague like “I want” or “I’ll try”. Writing something like “I will have a healthier life” or “I will add more vegetables to my diet” is much more powerful. Just by writing those words you’ll feel empowered because you’ll be making a commitment with yourself. 

Next, go deeper. We’ve stated the “what,” now we need a “why.” Next to your first statement add these words: “In order to.” Now dig deeper. What do you want to accomplish with this statement? Following the example, it should look something like this: “I will have a healthier life to inspire my family to follow healthier habits” or “I will add more vegetables to my diet to feel happier, lively and be in better shape.” It can be as specific as you want. 

Perhaps the first intentions you write will still have room for improvement. But that doesn’t matter, no one is grading you. These phrases are for you, to keep you focused and motivated on what you really want. So go back to that intention you just wrote and give it another thought. What’s your intention for the day? For starting a new workout routine? For changing your diet? 

Picture: Pexels

This breathing technique will help you calm down almost immediately

I’m a very active person, and I demand a lot of myself. I take on a lot of work, take care of my family, study new things all the time and exercise. Can everything be done? The way I see it, yes, it can. But as long as you don’t end up hurting yourself in the process.

I used to think that being organized and having a well prioritized to do list was enough to get everything done. But then it took the toll on my health. I got some nervous tics, anxiety and cold hands. People used to tell me that I had to slow down. But what does this really mean? 

When you ask a lot of yourself your sympathetic nervous system starts “running” faster. This is the system that activates the fight-or-flight response. However, it needs a counterbalance. And that’s the parasympathetic nervous system, which restores the body and provides calm. We tend to activate the sympathetic nervous system with our fast-paced life choices (I know I do), but don’t really take care of the opposite side of the coin as often.

Here’s a common myth: self-care takes time. Reality: not as much time as you think.

I recently found a super fast and helpful technique called 4-7-8 Breath developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. Conscious breathing is very helpful to improve your mental and physical state. This exercise, also known as Relaxing Breath, is a great ally to combat stress, anxiety and tension. As the name suggests, you feel relaxed almost immediately because breathwork has a direct connection with your nervous system. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Exhale until you have no air in you. 
  2. Place the tip of your tongue against the line between your upper front teeth and your palate. 
  3. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  5. Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Make sure to let all the air out. You’ll notice a whooshing sound. 
  6. Repeat from step 2 to step 4 three more times for a total of four cycles. 
  7. Extra tip: if you close your eyes you’ll feel a deeper relaxation.

After doing the breathing exercise take a few seconds to come back into your routine and enjoy the state of calm you’ll be in. I like to take a couple of extra deep breaths and that put me in a better mental state and, eventually, in a better physical state. 

What Dr. Weil recommends doing this twice a day. It’s a great tool to calm yourself if you’re about to react to a difficult situation, to fall asleep faster or to control a rush of anxiety. It’s also super helpful to fight food cravings. It’ll put you in the right mental place to analyze why you are craving a certain food and pause before deciding to eat it. 

Picture: Pexels