Watch and Walk

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

I would like to admit something that is slightly embarrassing and may seem weird to some people. One of my most favorite things to do in my free time is to watch various TV dramas. But this is not exactly my weird admission.

My weird (and slightly embarrassing habit) is that I watch these TV dramas on my smartphone while I walk around the house.

As you all know, one of the major problems with watching too much TV is that it is a very sedentary activity. And in all honesty the only reason I started to walk while I watched my favorite dramas was because I wanted to make my favorite pastime slightly less unhealthy (if that makes sense😊)

I never imagined that I would share this on the blog because in all honesty I didn’t think it would benefit anyone. But that changed when I decided to count my steps for a few days and I found that on average I took around 2,500 steps each time. The length of each episode is around 40 minutes but I like to skip through some boring scenes so it’s usually around 25 to 30 minutes and obviously since I am inside my walking pace is very moderate.

Obviously, this cannot and should not replace the 30 minutes of moderate daily activity that is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC. However, in my opinion it is a very fun way to take more steps each day!

Many of you may have heard of the recommendation to walk 10,000 steps a day. Although this number is somewhat arbitrary, it is not inaccurate. Most experts agree that the average person should get at least 7,500 steps a day and the more steps that you get the better!

Averaging around 2,500 steps per episode means that I complete around 25 percent of my 10,000 steps in this manner. The way I think about it is that if you aim to take 10,000 steps a day, watching your favorite show while doing so can make the experience more enjoyable.

Obviously this tip is not for everyone, but if you do decide to try this please make sure that you’re putting your safety first. Please make sure that you don’t accidentally bump into anything and God forbid injure yourself! If you have a treadmill, perhaps a safer alternative would be to watch your favorite show on a TV while you’re on the treadmill.

I hope you enjoy this quirky tip!

With Love,

Yasmin

Personal Care Products and Safety: A Quick Guide to Choosing Safe Products

hygiene-870763_640Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

If you’ve ever read the list of ingredients on most of your personal care products (such as make-up, skincare, hair care products, or personal hygiene products) you will likely see a long list of chemicals.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) the average American women uses around 12 personal care products a day which exposes her to around 168 chemicals. Also, the average American man uses 6 personal care products a day which exposes him to around 85 chemicals a day.

Out of all of these chemicals, some of them are likely safe for long term use, however, consumers are reporting adverse reactions to certain products which shows that some of these chemicals may indeed have harmful effects on our health. These negative effects can be as minor as irritation or allergic reaction to more severe long term effects such as asthma or even cancer.

The large number of chemicals in a product makes it difficult for consumers and researchers to pinpoint exactly which chemical is causing the harmful effects.

Some chemicals that are thought to be harmful are parabens and phthalates. It is believed that parabens and phthalates effect the hormonal system of both men and women. They are also believed to effect immune function, metabolism, and thyroid function.

A huge point of concern is that here in the U.S. when consumers do complain about the health effects of a product to the company that made it, the company is not required to share this information with the FDA. Furthermore, companies are not required to list all of the ingredients.

For example, phthalates are often used to create the fragrance of the product but companies simply list fragrance without listing the ingredients that are used to create the fragrance.

In the United States, only 11 cosmetic chemicals have been banned by the government, however, in the European Union 1,328 cosmetic chemicals have been banned.

Although this information may seem discouraging the good news is that there some things that you can do to make sure you are using products with safe ingredients.

Read the Ingredients:

Okay, so I know that earlier in this post I mentioned that in the U.S. companies are not required to list all the ingredients. But in general, they do list the majority of the ingredients somewhere on the packaging of the product.

Just read through the list of ingredients and if you don’t recognize most of the ingredients you might want to think twice before you purchase the product.

If you want to be extra safe, visit the EWG’s Skin Deep database (ewg.org/skindeep) to type the name of the product into the EWG search engine to learn more about the safety of the product. The EWG Skin Deep database has rating and safety information for over 74,000 personal care products.

“Natural” May Not Really Be Natural:

After reading this post you might be inspired to only purchase products that are natural. Unfortunately, “natural” is not an FDA approved term so if a product claims that it is natural there is no guarantee that it won’t cause harm and there is no guarantee that the product contains all natural ingredients.

A safer bet is to look for products that have the USDA organic label. But if you have sensitive skin do a patch test of the product because some organic products contain common allergens.

Stop Using Premoistened Wipes:

Premoistened wipes (such as make-up removers wipes) contain a preservative chemical (methylisothiazolinome) which has been labeled as being completely unsafe by the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Public Safety.

Minimize Products:

Its a good idea to go through all of your personal care products and see if you can stop using certain products. Sometimes without even realizing it, we use two or more products with the same purpose or benefit. By getting rid of a few products we can reduce the number of chemicals we are being exposed to.

Is the Scent Really Important?

On certain products, if the scent is not important, consider choosing a fragrance free product. By doing so, you can limit your exposure to parabens and phthalates.

Buy From Safe Sources:

Trust me, I am all for looking for deals and trying to find the cheapest option. However, when it comes to personal care items, there is nothing wrong with finding a deal but make sure that if you’re shopping online, you only buy from authorized sellers on large websites such as Amazon or eBay. Research has shown that certain products sold online by unauthorized sellers have dangerous ingredients such as lead.

Stay Informed:

If you are interested in finding out about product recalls and warnings that have been  issued by the FDA you may want to consider signing up for the FDA’s Cosmetics News email updates. Click here to sign up for updates.

Make Your Voice Heard:

If you do ever experience any adverse effects from a product make sure to report it to both the manufacturer of the product and the FDA . To report to the FDA, you can call them by phone (800)-332-1088) or you can report online by visiting http://www.fda.gov/safety/mediawatch and click on “Report a Problem”.

I hope that you find these tips to be helpful!

With Love,

Yasmin

 

 

Quick Guide to Layering Your Skincare

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

During my free time I love learning about (and then implementing)  new skincare regimens. I feel that lately the idea of layering skincare products has really been trending and I definitely think that this trend has been inspired by Korean beauty.

As a side note, the university that I attended had a large Korean population and I was always mesmerized by their flawless and glowing skin. So, late last summer after graduating, I learned about Korean skincare and I got a little too excited and I ordered a bunch of random Korean skincare products.

The products that I ordered (from Amazon) were all nice products with good quality. However, I have acne prone skin so some of the products were a little too moisturizing for me and they caused me to breakout. I know this sounds really obvious but make sure to buy products that will actually benefit your particular skin.

For those that are interested in layering their skincare products or they just use a number of different skincare products and they’re curious about the correct order of applying their products, here is a very brief guide:

  • The first and foremost step to any skincare regimen should be to wash your face with a gentle cleanser. The reason behind this is that most skincare products need to penetrate into the skin and they cannot do this if there is bacteria, natural oils, or other forms of impurities on the skin.
  • It is also a good idea to go from the thinnest to the thickest textures. Start off with liquids such as toners and then work your way up to the heavier and creamier products. If you do use a face oil, that should be applied last.
  • The exception to the above rule is products that have acids or retinol. These are active ingredients and they should be applied on clean skin so they can penetrate properly. Be sure to wait a minute or two before applying another product to allow it to penetrate.
  • Don’t forget about your eye area! The skin around our eyes is especially sensitive so it is often the first area that shows signs of aging. If your moisturizer is gentle enough you may be able to use it around the eyes as well. However, if you have a specific eye cream that is a serum or gel make sure to apply it before your general moisturizer so it can better penetrate the skin.
  • Finally, the last step to any skincare routine should be a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

The above guide is a very ideal skincare regimen and to be completely honest I rarely follow all the steps because I can get really lazy. However, one thing that I learned about Korean skincare is that for many people who follow the lengthy Korean skincare regimen, they view taking care of their skin as a therapeutic and almost meditative act and I admire this mindset!

With Love,

Yasmin

A Bit About Depression

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

As someone who has studied psychology in college I have read and heard quite a lot about depression. I am a firm believer that antidepressants should not be the first option in treating depression. However, I hope that by the end of this quick post I can convince you that antidepressants should not be completely avoided either.

First of all, a person is diagnosed with major depression when they have been in a depressed mood for more than two weeks. Specific symptoms of major depression include some of the following:

  • loss of interest in activities they normally enjoy
  • weight loss/gain
  • trouble concentrating
  • guilt
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • worthlessness
  • suicidal ideation

Depression can impact a person’s social life, career, and/or performance in school. A family history of depression can slightly increase one’s risk of depression. However, there are a number of environmental  factors that can contribute to depression as well:

  • history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • major life events such as the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job
  • other mental illnesses or other physical ailments
  • history of, or current, substance abuse.

Of course, taking antidepressants is not the only effective treatment option for depression. Effective alternatives include physical exercise, psychotherapy, and in extreme case electroconvulsive therapy or ECT.

Physical exercise can increase endorphins, which can counteract the symptoms of depression. Research has shown that physical exercise can also improve overall brain health by promoting the birth of new neurons.

Psychotherapy, where the depressed person talks to a mental health professional, can help the depressed person change their negative thoughts and actions and replace them with positive ones. Psychotherapy can also help people find better ways to cope and solve their problems. Research has shown that psychotherapy can be just as effective as antidepressants for people with moderate to severe depression. Overall, psychotherapy is especially beneficial to people who experience depression due to the challenges or difficulties they’ve faced in the earlier days of their life.

In extreme cases where no other treatment option including antidepressants, has worked Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT can be used. During the ECT procedure, the patient is given general anesthesia and then a series of small electrons are passed through their brain and this purposefully triggers a seizure. ECT impacts the neurotransmitters in the brain to help relieve symptoms of depression. For many patients this is only a temporary option.

What some people may not know about depression is that aside from affecting our moods and behaviors it also negatively impacts the biology of our brain. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released by the body during times of physical and mental stress. However, in people with major depression excessive amounts of cortisol are released and sent to the brain.

In the long term excessively high levels of cortisol in the brain can lead to a wide range of problems. Some of these include:

  • slowing down the birth of new neurons
  • memory problems
  • shrinking the prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for regulating emotions and making decisions)
  • High cortisol levels also increase the size of the amygdala which is responsible for emotional responses. This can lead to sleep disturbances and it can cause the body to release irregular amounts of hormones and other chemicals.
  • High levels of cortisol also decrease the brains structural plasticity (which is the brains ability to adapt to different situations).

The reality is that for many people depression is not limited to constantly feeling sad. For some people depression is caused by biological changes in their brain and for many people if depression is left untreated, in the long-term it can cause potentially irreversible damage to the brain.

Unfortunately, physical exercise, psychotherapy and ECT cannot prevent or improve the biological causes and the long-term biological damage that is associated with untreated major depression.

Once again, if someone is diagnosed with depression they should most definitely try physical exercise, psychotherapy, or any other non-prescription remedy. However, after a certain period of time if these other remedies don’t work it might be time to try an antidepressant.

For those that are wondering about the effectiveness of antidepressants, the latest research has shown that compared to a placebo (in a scientific experiment a non-drug  sugar pill that is presented to the patient as an antidepressant) the actual antidepressant are significantly more effective in treating depression. Of course, some antidepressants are more effective than others and only a doctor can correctly prescribe the right medication for you.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people with depression do not get the help and treatment that they need. In developed nations only one in six people receive treatment for depression and in the developing nations its only one in twenty-seven people. If you do suffer from depression, please make sure to reach out for help regardless of which treatment option you choose, never leave depression untreated.

I know that for many people this is much easier said than done because unfortunately,  here in the United States not everyone has access to a mental health professional and going to visit one can be very expensive. These are systemic problems that the government and those with power have the responsibility of fixing.

Aside from exercise here are some free mental health resources.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

10 Uses of Coconut Oil

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

A few weeks ago, I posted about some of the benefits of coconut oil for hair. Since that post received a lot of positive feedback I thought I would create another post about some of the benefits of coconut oil for the skin and skin related conditions. As a reminder, in all of these cases its best to use virgin organic and unrefined coconut oil.

Moisturizer:

Coconut oil is a great skin moisturizer. A little bit goes a long way so just take a dime sized amount and rub it on your face or on any rough or dry patch of skin.

Coconut oil actually has a small amount of SPF sun protection (like around SPF 4) so if you’re going to be inside during the day, coconut oil can help protect your skin from some of the harmful radiation from the sun that might for example, come through the window. However, obviously it is no substitute for sunscreen.

Coconut Oil and Acne:

If you have acne prone skin I would recommend approaching coconut oil with caution because some people claim that coconut oil makes then breakout but then others argue that coconut oil can actually help with acne due to its antibacterial properties.

Eczema:

People of all ages who suffer from eczema, including babies and toddlers, can benefit from coconut oil. All you have to do is rub a small amount on the affected area or as a preventative measure rub some of the oil on areas that generally tend to flare up.

Ideally the best time to do this is after a shower or bath. Coconut oil can help with eczema due to the fact that it has vital nutrients such as lauric acid, caprylic acid, and vitamins E and K. Coconut oil can really help ease the itchiness associated with eczema.

Sunburns:

Its important to mention that you should always wear a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to prevent a sunburn. However, if you do get a sunburn the first thing you should do is apply a cool damp towel on the sunburn for around 15 minutes to hopefully cool down the skin and ease the burning sensation.

After a few hours have passed, apply some coconut oil to the affected area. The coconut oil can prevent the sunburned area from becoming excessively dry and it may even speed up the healing process.

Mosquito Bites:

If you get a mosquito bite or other bug bite, consider applying some coconut oil to the affected area. It can protect the affected area from bacteria and it can help quickly stop the itching and reduce swelling. It is best to use warm coconut oil so it penetrates faster and reapply two to three times a day until symptoms improve.

Lip Care:

If you’re like me and you have dry chapped lips, coconut oil can be a great natural alternative to most lip balms that contain alcohol. At night, you can dab a small amount on your lips and overtime you will wake up to softer and more moisturized lips.

Alternatively, you can mix one tablespoon of melted coconut oil with two tablespoons of brown sugar to create an easy and effective lip scrub to exfoliate your lips.

Also, the MCT, or the good fats in coconut oil can help speed up the healing process of cold sores. Or, alternatively, if you feel a cold sore is about to pop out rub some coconut oil on the area to prevent it from getting larger.

Fungal Infections:

The lauric acid and caprylic acid in coconut oil help fight many different types of fungal infections. Just cleanse and dry the area and apply warm coconut oil and massage it in. For more severe cases, consider adding a drop of tea tree oil to the coconut oil and then apply to the affected area.

Make-up remover:

Coconut oil is very helpful in removing make-up from the face. It is especially useful in removing stubborn eye make-up. It can even remove waterproof mascara.

Shaving Cream:

Coconut oil is a great all-natural shaving cream. Just apply warm coconut oil onto your legs and make sure to spread it evenly over the area you will be shaving. Then, just shave the area and if you take a shower afterward your legs will feel extra soft and smooth.

Cracked Heels:

Coconut oil can help soften and heal the rough skin on your heels. First, while you’re in the shower use a pumice stone or any other exfoliator to slough off some of the dead skin and then rub coconut oil onto your heels once or twice a day.

A few additional uses:

Mouthwash: thanks to its antibacterial properties you can take a spoonful of coconut oil and swish it in your mouth for a few minutes to help freshen your breath and fight bacteria.

Coconut oil is also great for gum health. Just massage the oil onto your gums for a few minutes to prevent gum damage.

My father was taking a medication that can cause gum damage as a side effect. He found that rubbing coconut oil helped decrease the damage of the medication on his gums.

Coconut oil is also great for your nails and cuticles. The fatty acids in coconut oil can lead to healthy nails and cuticles. It can also help strengthen weak and brittle nails and thanks to its anti-fungal properties coconut oil can help prevent nail fungus.

You may have never considered rubbing coconut oil on your armpits but the coconut oil can act as a natural deodorant. It won’t prevent you from sweating but thanks to its antibacterial properties it can kill the bacteria that causes the bad smell.

A Word of Caution:

Without a doubt, there are many great topical uses of coconut oil. However, it is important to mention that the American Heart Association warns against eating a lot of coconut oil. This is because coconut oil consists of 80 percent saturated fat which is more than lard or butter. Saturated fat can increase bad cholesterol so its best to limit your intake of coconut oil.

I really hope you found these tips to be helpful!

With Love,

Yasmin

Five Tips for Optimizing Your Smartphone

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

I feel that most people who own a smartphone use it throughout the day every day.

I definitely believe that excessive use of our smartphones can potentially harm our physical and mental well-being.

On the other hand, smartphones often do help us stay connected to our friends and family and the world around us.

Without a doubt, smartphones do have their pros and cons however, in this post I would just like to share a few simple tips for optimizing your smartphone experience.

Cover it:

If you’re clumsy like me I would definitely recommend investing in a good case to make sure that if an accident happens and you drop your phone, its not completely damaged. If you have an iPhone or any other phone with a large glass screen I would also recommend getting a screen protector just to ensure extra protection. I cannot count how many people I have seen who have accidently shattered their screens. The initial investment in a good case and screen protector can definitely be worth it in the long run.

Battery Saving Tips:

In order to make sure that your phone is always charged you can invest in a portable charger, which is basically a battery power bank which you can insert the USB of your charger and charge your phone without an outlet. However, there also a number of free ways to increase the battery life of your phone:

  • Always make sure to close power draining apps and tabs.
  • Even if your phone has 80 or 90 percent charge try to put your phone in low power mode so it increases the battery life.
  • If you’re in a hurry but you do have access to an outlet, put your phone in airplane mode so that it charges faster.

Consider adjusting the settings of your phone. For example, you can tinker the email setting so it doesn’t automatically update and you can adjust the settings so that your apps do not automatically update.

Passwords:

Some apps and websites require us to put in our passwords before being able to access the app or site. However, if you have different passwords for different sites (which you really should because it’s a bad idea to use one password for everything) you might occasionally forget your password.

One possible option is to download a password manager app on your smartphone. You use one password to access this app and this app manages all of your other passwords and it can autofill your passwords whenever you need them.

When you’re trying to create a password, a longer password is often safer than a shorter one. In order to make the password easier to remember choose chunks of data to make it easier to remember. Also, the more crazy or exotic your password is the more likely you will be to remember it.

Tune Down Distractions:

The best solution to avoid the distractions of your smartphone is probably to turn it off completely or hide it far away or even in another room when you are trying to get work done. However, other options include turning on the Do Not Disturb button if you have an iPhone or putting it on airplane mode.

Likewise, if you’re like me and you don’t even turn off your phone at night you can put it in airplane mode, preferably 20 to 30 minutes before bed. This way your sleep will not be disrupted and when you wake up in the morning you will only see the time and you won’t be distracted by a barrage of notifications.

Keep It Clean:

I know this sounds quite gross but studies have found that often times our smartphones have as much as ten times more germs than public toilet seats!

The average adult touches their eyes, noise or mouth an average of 16 times an hour and this could lead to a variety of potentially dangerous germs being transmitted onto their phones. Some of the viruses that can be transmitted are the flu virus, viruses that can lead to the common cold, noroviruses that can lead to diarrhea and vomiting, and the E. Coli virus.

As scary as this sounds, the good news is that the solution is fairly simple and straightforward. All you have to do is clean your smartphone at least once a week to prevent the buildup of nasty germs and viruses. I personally prefer using pre-moistened anti-bacterial wipes however, please do some research to make sure that you do not accidently damage your phone during the cleaning process. Click here for a helpful article.

I am definitely not tech savvy but I do hope you found these tips to be helpful.

With Love,

Yasmin

 

Deep Work: How to be More Productive

Hey Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well!

If you’re anything like me, you sit down with the intention of getting some work done and then before you know it, you’re tempted to check your phone and then once you grab your phone, its hard to put it down!

Even if you’re focusing on your work, you may hear or see a constant string of notifications or messages and you may then be tempted to respond and in many cases you do stop working and respond to these notifications or messages.

Unfortunately, every time we respond to an email/text or every time we google something while we are working on a cognitively demanding task, we pay a small price. In the moment we may not notice the price but overtime, it adds up. Basically, every time we are distracted by technology, it takes us longer to go back to being focused on the task we were working on and overtime this affects our creativity and it prevents us from reaching our cognitive potential. This phenomenon is known as attention residue.

Social scientists have tested this idea of attention residue in their labs. They gave their subject a task to do and then at some point they distract the subject by briefly making them look at something else, etc. When they then turn back to the cognitively demanding task , their performance decreases and it drops for a while.

I was recently listening to a podcast interview with Cal Newport, who is a computer science professor at Georgetown University. He has come up with the concept of deep work.

Deep work is an almost flow like state of work where we are only focused and concentrated on our work without letting anything distract us.

Cal Newport has written a book on deep work and in the podcast, he gave some of the following suggestions for how we can achieve deep and meaningful work:

Limit Social Media:

Newport claims that he has never had a social media account. He is not necessarily completely against the idea of social media, its just that he feels if he were to have a social media account it would take too much of his time.

For me personally, as a blogger and as someone who has family all over the world, social media is very important and I don’t plan on giving it up. In order to avoid wasting too much time on social media I would suggest choosing a specific part(s) of the day where you can check social media and I would suggest setting up a time limit as well.

Organizing Your Time:

Before starting your work, its important to create a daily schedule in which you plan out your day. Newport mentions that he works during very set hours during the day. One point that really resonated with me is that he mentioned: “I don’t let my mood dictate how my day unfolds”. Newport also mentions that great creative thinkers approach their time like accountants. They’re very structured and systematic with their time and they produce the most unstructured creative works.

Being Comfortable with Annoying People:

Okay, so this is one of the hardest tips for me to apply to my own life because when someone reaches out to contact me I almost always try to reply as soon as possible. Newport explains that he is someone who is very bad at responding back to others and he has set this expectation that he is simply unavailable most of the time. He admits that this has occasionally become a problem for him but ultimately it allows him to have a lot of time to focus on his deep work.

Although this tip may not be applicable to everyone’s lives I do think that taking the time to reply to texts, emails, comments, etc. should be incorporated into our daily schedule. By setting up a specific time we can still be social without damaging our work concentration.

Ratio of Deep Work vs. Shallow Work:

Not everyone works in a profession where they can dedicate long hours to deep work. Newport suggests talking to your boss or supervisor explaining to them what deep work is and then asking them how much time you should dedicate to deep work and eventually once your work is optimized your boss will see the benefits and this could potentially improve the workplace culture.

Reconfiguring Peoples Expectations and Channels of Communication:

You might be wondering, when you’re in deep work what happens if there is an emergency were someone needs to reach you? Or, what happens if you work in a very client-based environment. Newport suggests that some effort and creativity need to be used in order come up with different ways of communicating. For example, this can include creating an emergency number or a client email with someone there to respond at all times.

Shutdown Properly:

At the end of every work day it is absolutely vital to stop working and spend plenty of time relaxing and unwinding, with your family or however you choose to unwind. Sometimes, even after we have stopped working, its difficult to stop thinking about work. Newport suggests coming up with a mantra to help you stop thinking about work. Newport admits that his mantra: “Schedule Shutdown Complete” is slightly nerdy but it works for him.

Benefits of Deep Work:

Deep work and the ability to really focus on the current task is important to students and to many people who work in a knowledge-based economy where most workers rely more on their brain than their physical body for their jobs.

Deep work can also add meaning and joy to our lives. Studies have shown that people who are engaged in deep work end up being happier. People who spend a lot of their professional time concentrating on their work tend to enjoy their work more.

With Love,

Yasmin