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M-day ūüíē

I hope you all had a great Mother’s Day ūüôā Ours¬†was perfect. We started off the day making some¬†“real deal”¬†chocolate chip waffles with bacon, and ended with seeing our grandparents, picking up my sister from dance rehearsal, and scarfing down some amazing grilled shrimp that I was too hungry to consider taking a picture of.

waffle with bacon
Real whipped cream + toasted coconut + berries ūüôā And some special¬†cold brew coffee with almond milk!

One day or one weekend to celebrate moms is absolutely not enough, because they are the reason all of our lives are possible. On top of that, they do so much thankless work. Thank them for everything you can think of, because there is always more that goes on behind the scenes.

That being said,¬†we ought to just be able to give moms a rest day, but I know mine always¬†ends up working,¬†even on Mother’s Day.¬†Laundry is still running,¬†and Mom is still full-throttle getting us ready for the week ahead. She’s superhuman.

However, it is possible to incorporate restfulness into even the busiest of days. Whether it’s a¬†yoga session, enjoying¬†a good¬†meal, watching a little TV, or just going to bed early, rest is important to your mental health. We weren’t created to run 24/7, and many moms (like mine) have figured this out.

You’ve probably heard it before, but if you want to be present for others, you need to take care of you. Why not take initiative and incorporate planned rest into your life? In my experience, if you try to be “on” all the time, you’re going to crash.¬†Give yourself the satisfaction of taking breaks, on your own terms.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, probably because they thought the M’s would be cute. May is actually a really good time to think about it, though, because for many of us the school year is coming to a close. Things get really busy, and then they just drop off. If you’re in the busy phase, it’s a great time to consider how you can improve your performance by keeping your mental health strong. If you’ve made it through, congratulations! Allow yourself to relax, and definitely consider de-stressors that you can incorporate into your life when it winds back up again. If¬†life is calm for you, considering your mental health can boost your happiness, help you to care more for others, and just overall make you whole and healthy.

Many say that mental health is just as important as physical health – and I agree. You might work your tail off for a performance, or to look good for an event… but when you get there, can you enjoy it? In our everyday quest to keep our bodies healthy, if we stress ourselves out, we will not succeed. We might make the grade, reach our body goals, or lower our cholesterol, but we are not fully healthy or successful if we are not mentally healthy.¬†Mental health will determine the overall quality of your life.¬†Everything you experience is processed in your brain…¬†the way you interpret life is ultimately what matters.

GPA 3.69

It’s not just a concept – physical proof of the negative effects of poorly managed stress on the body¬†includes elevated cortisol – a stress hormone that is naturally elevated when we stress the body. Cortisol isn’t all bad – levels go up when we work out hard. It’s essential for performance, but if elevated all day long, it can negatively influence fat storage (more around the middle), among other negative effects. A workout only temporarily spikes cortisol, but not getting enough sleep or being under constant stress can¬†result in¬†chronically high cortisol levels. Additionally, stress itself has been linked to an increase in heart disease!¬†You can do all the healthy things, but if you don’t live life with moderation and allow yourself rest, you could seriously impact your physical health.

Exercise, though it temporarily stresses the body, is good for your mental health because it releases other “feel-good” hormones, like serotonin. Encouraging, not forcing, the body to move will give us the best results. I don’t mean stop if running or lifting is hard- challenge yourself, but don’t work beyond sense. Don’t push exercise to the max if you are feeling drained. Work with your body, not against it.

Being mindful with exercise ties right in with one of my favorite things in the world – mindful eating. Learning to listen to my body’s true needs when it comes to food has been one of the best changes I could ever have made in my life. God gave us hunger and fullness cues, and emotions, for a reason- and it’s our job to listen and nourish ourselves well.

A healthy and varied diet full of good fats, lean protein, whole grains, and colorful fruits and veggies can really make you feel and look your best. And the body is happy. However, food was also meant for celebration! Though I do feel rejuvenated after eating most days, there’s something fulfilling about enjoying a special meal with family. Though my healthiest breakfasts might contain more antioxidants than chocolate chip waffles, those waffles we had yesterday had their own sort of benefit. Happiness, letting go, not caring that they’re full fat and full sugar. Letting yourself enjoy a total splurge is good for the mental state.

The thing is, we don’t have to deserve¬†good food. We don’t deserve anything in life. It’s all a gift. Our bodies are a gift, too.

I have also found that good old fashioned dessert loses its luster if you start feeling “entitled” to it. What’s there to celebrate is you eat this way every day? I say, enjoy healthy food most of the time, and fearlessly indulge when your body needs it. You don’t have to have cake on every occasion, but you should¬†certainly have cake in your life. Or ice cream. Or whatever you love. Structure and groundedness in your diet are good. Making treats healthier is good. But chocolate chip waffle mix from William’s Sonoma is good, too.

And don’t call it a cheat meal. Call it living your life.

To close, here are some of my favorite ways to keep my mind healthy and happy –

  1. Going to bed early
  2. Yoga
  3. Taking walks
  4. Drinking hot tea ‚ėēÔłŹ
  5. Hammocking
  6. Crossfit
  7. Watching the sun rise
  8. Reading my bible
  9. Relaxing with friends/ family
  10. Bubble baths ūüõÄūüŹľ

These are just examples, and I encourage you to find your own ways to incorporate rest and healthy movement into your lives on a daily basis. Your mind, body, and family will all thank you!

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Be well,

Rae

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On Goals, and How They Change Everything.

Preface: ^^ The above salad was constructed by me from a couple of different stations at Troy’s¬†dining hall. Proof you can eat yummy and healthy¬†anywhere with a little effort!

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Prov. 29:18

Having a vision for what you want to do in the world, and seeing how the now affects reaching your goals, makes all the difference in the world. I remember when I first started the classes in my major field of study, exercise science and nutrition Рit absolutely changed the way I studied because I wanted to learn the information. I had a passion for it, finally РI loved it. Even the hard stuff, I pushed through it because of an ultimate goal. I know that my God-given purpose involves influencing the lives of others through health and nutrition, so I have a deep drive to learn as much as I can in that field.

In sport, also, having a vision for what you want to accomplish, goals for the season, and a plan for each week¬†will change the way you wake up. It’ll even affect the attitude you show up with each day. This week, I’m taking on my first race in a while after an injury and a long period of rebuilding. Being a senior, I have to approach this Friday aware that this could very well be my last race in college. As hard as it is mentally to not be afraid of failing, I have to go out there¬†wanting to achieve my goal (being ultimately proud of the effort I put in). ¬†My plan for achieving this is keeping my eyes on the girl in front of me, and not giving up, because I want to shine and make my team proud. I’m going to remember the workout I did today, and how I pushed myself, and just try to do that again the best I can for 1 mile!

Student Athlete
So ready.

Vision is a concept that I’ve learned in my time at Church of the Highlands. God has a plan for each of our lives, and He’s put us in specific circumstances with specific character traits and skills and talents, in order to accomplish good for His kingdom. (For more on this, check out churchofthehighlands.com!) In your daily life, having a vision changes the order in which you do things. If you have an ultimate end point you want to reach,¬†you can change your priorities to get you there! You can say no to what won’t help you, and yes to what will. Without things you want to accomplish – small and large goals – it’s hard to get moving on anything. You’ll do what’s comfortable.

Being uncomfortable is definitely something that I, and most¬†of us, struggle with. However, some of the greatest blessings of my life have come through suffering! What about the¬†half-marathon I ran? What about the intense training I underwent to become a cheerleader? That changed me, but it was HARD (difficulty is personal – think about things that were hard for you, emotionally, mentally, or physically). But I don’t regret the hard work. Your biggest regrets are gonna come from the things you¬†didn’t do. The laziness or fear or insecurity that held you back wins. And¬†we’re so unkind and unfair to ourselves when we let those things¬†win. Whether it’s lifting weights, pushing through a tough run or workout, or a race, the pain is usually worth it.

Let me relate this to diet, because this is one of the biggest areas in my life where I see the benefits of vision, goals, and a plan.¬†When I’ve got a race coming up, it’s so much more crucial to make healthy diet choices, because I know how I want to feel, look, and perform on the line. I know my choices matter, so I’m watching them. I also know that I’ll probably have some almond milk ice cream¬†(yummiest stuff on earth) the weekend after the race! When you reach goals, though, you have to regroup and set new ones, or else you’ll stay there with the ice cream… metaphorically speaking. That new goal for me becomes the next week of training, feeling my best, and looking my best when summer comes! Everybody loves swimsuit season ūüėČ But seriously, it can serve as a really good motivator to make healthy choices, because you know that those¬†choices are¬†going to show. What if we made choices we were proud of all the time?¬†Just, for ourselves? I think that’d feel really good.

To reach¬†goals, all we need is forward momentum. We don’t need perfection. One bathroom stop on a road trip doesn’t make you give up on reaching your destination, does it? Of course not. A wrong turn shouldn’t, either. No matter what your goals – bettering your health, feeling good day to day, high self-efficacy (feeling good about yourself your ability to make the choices you want), athletic performance, or a figure competition – you¬†reach them one choice at a time. Treat yourself like you’d treat a close friend who messed up – with sympathy, love, and¬†support.

My final tip is to find others who inspire you! I follow lots of fit ladies on youtube, and that really inspires me to make healthy choices and set higher goals for myself. My favorite Registered Dietitian/ WNBF Bikini Pro, Kara Corey, has recently started a challenge called DRIVE in which she’s helping¬†her whole fan base to work as a community and encourage each other towards their fitness and health goals. Her recent videos served as a catalyst for this blog post. And though our goals are different, watching her talk about her goals and her drive¬†really encouraged me to¬†reach for mine.

Encourage someone today! Life is sweeter when you do.

Rae

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Brownie Batter {Hummus}

Made this AMAZING stuff with my sister this weekend. We modeled it after the chocolate hummus on¬†don’t waste the crumbs¬†blog, with a few modifications, and it only took about 5 minutes. You’ll find recipes online with the same ingredients labeled both “healthy cookie dough dip” and “dessert hummus.” That’s because¬†when you make this stuff right, you’ll never know its healthy!

Our inspiration behind making our own dessert hummus arose when “DB Dessert Hummus” followed me on Twitter. They make the most amazing looking stuff… and I thought, “Whoa, a dessert with health benefits? An even yummier way to eat chickpeas?” And then I realized… it ain’t sold in Alabama. Boo. So, we set out to make our own!

We used:

1 can (1 1/2 cups) chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

1/2 cup cocoa powder.

1/3 cup maple syrup.

2 tsp. vanilla extract.

You can adjust these ratios to your own liking – use less or more sweetener, different sweetener, add nut butter or anything else you think would make this dip amazing. Blend it all up in your ninja, blender, or food processor, and then add 2 tbsp water. Blend again. Throw¬†in chocolate chips ūüôā

Dessert Hummus, done.

brownie hummus

Who needs flour and butter when you’ve got chickpeas?

And my favorite ways to eat it are:

As a healthy fat/protein boost with bfast –

hummus bfast
Sweet potato muffin & fruit + a little smidge of heaven.

2. As a post-run snack with graham crackers –

hummus workout
Life’s good.

And as a bedtime snack with my family ūüôā

Hope you love it!! We plan on trying other variations in the future. Maybe a coconut pie, or a snickerdoodle? And if I ever get my hands on some DB Hummus … I’ll let you know whose is better!

Stay sweet,

Rae

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Breakfast-Style Sweet Potato

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the benefits of natural foods for the body. Yesterday, I spent some time researching the effects of certain foods on the skin, and felt motivated to include more¬†foods in my diet that are minimally processed, lower in refined sugar, and¬†provide a spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

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As a result,¬†I ended up taking home an extra sweet potato from the dining hall last night.¬†Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A, C, and B6, Manganese, Potassium, and fiber. They pack a lot into a small, nutrient dense package – they¬†also generally won’t give us as high of a blood sugar spike as white potatoes. I started thinking about hash browns, and I realized – if white potatoes can make it into the breakfast club, why shouldn’t sweet potatoes? I searched Pinterest¬†for some sweet potato breakfast recipes, and¬†most people made them into a hash (which looked delicious!). Being in my dorm room, that wasn’t really plausible for me – so I came up with my own idea.

This breakfast sweet potato is stuffed with roasted cinnamon and crushed walnuts, and topped with a drizzle of maple almond butter, a few dollops of silk vanilla yogurt, and some fresh berries. These were all ingredients I had on hand РYou could mix this up with any type of nut butter, fruit, or yogurt. These are my favorite toppings in the world added to my favorite vegetable, so naturally, this was one of my favorite breakfasts ever made.

Here’s my recipe!¬†You might choose a larger or smaller potato, and more or less toppings than I did, depending on your size and energy needs. If at home or in an apartment, you could get fancy and heat this in the oven, but it was great just microwaved.

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium Sweet Potato (cooked)
  • Roasted cinnamon,¬†to taste
  • 2 walnut halves, broken into small pieces
  • 1 tsp Justin’s Maple Almond Butter
  • Silk vanilla yogurt, 1/4 container
  • Blueberries and raspberries, to garnish

-Pull your left over sweet potato out of the refrigerator. Make a slit down the center, and push the ends in to open it up.

microwaved

-Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir up the inside. Heat for 30 more seconds, and your sweet potato should be warm and ready to top!

-Stir in roasted cinnamon and walnuts; Drizzle almond butter and yogurt; top with berries.


I feel so energized after eating this! I also had my protein coffee and the rest of my silk vanilla yogurt on the side to balance out this breakfast. I’m about to go conquer a beautiful¬†Thursday – 2 exercise science classes, studying, track practice, and weights. I hope¬†your breakfast fuels you to do something great!

Stay vibrant,

Rae

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Breakfast at… McDonalds?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics takes an “all foods can fit” approach to healthful eating, and so do I.

The AND emphasizes that the total diet, or overall pattern of food eaten, is what matters – not any one food or meal. “If consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity,” they say, “all foods can fit into a healthful diet.” It’s true. The value of a food should be determined within the context of the total diet, because labeling items as “good” or “bad” may encourage¬†unhealthy eating behaviors. Here’s another snippet of wisdom from the¬†AND – “Nutrition confusion can be reduced by emphasizing moderation, appropriate portion size, balance and adequacy of the total diet over time, the importance of obtaining nutrients from foods, and physical activity.”

These guys know what they’re talking about. Balance is key to a healthy life. So, we conclude, every choice does not have to be perfect¬†in order for us to eat a total diet we can be proud of. I say, we can make a McDonalds trip every so often fit into our healthy lifestyles, without remorse. Here’s some tips to help you feel proud, not¬†ashamed, when you pull out of the parking lot.

–Breakfast–

(aka, the thing that’s really great here¬†&¬†is served all day)bfast

I went for brunch with some friends on Saturday, and got the Egg White Delight McMuffin, a Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait, and a hot coffee. These are my favorites, and I’ll discuss a couple of other nice¬†options as well!

Egg White Delight McMuffin – DELICIOUS. One of my very favorite fast food breakfasts, though I don’t do it as often as I used to.¬†This sandwich rings¬†in at 250 kcal, 8g fat, and boasts 17g protein, 10% DV iron… and 740mg sodium (30% DV). Really, the sodium is the drawback here, because too much sodium is not great for the heart (and can make you feel/ look bloated). Remove either the Canadian bacon or the cheese, and you can take the sodium down to 510mg (21% DV). Other cons are the white flour in the english muffin (too bad they don’t buy whole wheat!) and use of¬†preservatives. You can make an epic version of this at home that’s got an even better nutritional profile, but for McDonalds, and being on the road, this is¬†a nice¬†light choice. Swap the cheese¬†for american if you’d rather,¬†because they are basically the same thing¬†in¬†different colors!

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Egg McMuffin. Let’s compare this classic to its trendier egg white cousin. It’s another nice choice. 290 kcal, 12g fat, 17g protein, 15% DV iron, 710 sodium. Very similar to the Egg white, but¬†a whole egg (therefore slightly higher in fat) and a different color cheese. That’s literally the difference. You can lower sodium to 510 mg by removing either the cheese or Canadian bacon; lower fat by 4g and sandwich by 50 kcal by removing the cheese, or swap for white cheddar for no change in nutrient value.

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal. I’d either choose to leave out the¬†brown sugar (you can ask for this, they will make it with or without) or the dried fruit. With 33g sugar, the standard with all the toppings is a little¬†overwhelming for breakfast. By making one of these modifications, you can take it down to¬†18g. Our modified oatmeal supplies you with 260 Calories, and¬†all the benefits of the stuff you make at home – it supplies 10% of your daily iron needs, 22% of your fiber needs, and is fairly low in sodium (115mg).

Biscuits. Nothing wrong with one every once in a while. One McD’s biscuit has 270 kcal, 12g fat, 5g protein, and 770mg sodium. The toppings – that’s where¬†things get crazy. I recommend one-topping style, with some great choices being egg (it’s a scrambled, folded egg), bacon, or a packet of strawberry jelly or honey. That’s how I would eat a biscuit at home, so I don’t pile on a lot of layers¬†at restaurants, either – simple can be nice!

Hot cakes.¬†You can actually get an order of plain hot cakes for 330 kcal, 9g protein, 8g fat, and 12g sugar. You can lightly coat them with butter, maybe give them a drizzle of syrup, and it’s still really not¬†crazy. They just get a bad rap! Keep in mind it’s refined flour, but this isn’t a perfect world. You could even get a 1% milk on the side to up your meal’s protein content by 8g for 100 kcal.

Fruit and yogurt parfait.¬†150 kcal, 4g protein, 3g fat, 80mg sodium, and 23g sugar. No live/active cultures, but still yummy and provides calcium (10% daily needs, 110mg). Sugar is a little high, but it’s no milkshake. Together with Egg white delight (I did that combo for brunch) you come to 400 kcal, and it’s a really nice meal. I wouldn’t pair the parfait with something else sweet¬†–¬†oatmeal or sweetened coffee – but it is a nice touch to a more savory meal.

Hash browns¬†are probably the more typical side choice for breakfast.¬†Each patty has 150 kcal, just like the parfait. You aren’t getting any fruit, but then, you aren’t getting added sugar, either. If you’re a sucker for these, go with just one, or even split it with a friend!

Coffee. Here we go.

coffee

  • I actually think McDonald’s brews a great house blend. A hot small cup with 2 or 3 creams is my favorite. I just love it! I couldn’t finish my whole cup at our brunch, so I took it home and drank the rest chilled the next morning. Yum!
  • Iced Coffee – You can get a small vanilla for 100, hazelnut for 110, or caramel for 120 kcal. 15, 17, and 20g of sugar, respectively. I can drink to that – it’s even less of a splurge than Chick-fil-a’s, and we think it might be better. (If you opt for artificial sweetener, the sugar free vanilla is 70 kcal and 1g sugar¬†for a small, but I usually go with the standard vanilla).

And these are all my tips.¬†Note – you can make YUMMIER and healthier versions of most of these things at home, but sometimes it’s just fun to go out with the girls!

Happy smacking,

Rae

Reference

Freeland-Graves, J., & Nitzke, S. (2002). Position of the American Dietetic Association: total diet approach to communicating food and nutrition information. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102(1), 100-108.

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Fresh & Clean

{Feature B&W Room: Claire Vaughn}

We all know cleaning up our space is a good thing. When we are having a tough week, however, this is typically one of the first things to fall to the wayside. I’m speaking some personal truth¬†here, because I cleaned up my own desk this morning and watched a wave¬†of productivity and fresh thoughts roll in. As I worked away at (and finished!) a couple of¬†assignments I had put off, and sent multiple emails that I remembered were on my to-do list, I scribbled down ideas for this blog post that just kept popping into my brain. Talk about a good morning.

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Now I’ve begun thinking what I would have felt like if I had done this 3 days ago…

I’m a big believer in the importance of a positive environment. I have become aware of this throughout college, and¬†I feel like the more I work on it, the more benefits I see. This is present in so many areas! For example:

  • A¬†messy space invites you to throw more things down. Throwing more things down invites you to throw yourself down and be lazy.
  • A clean room is pretty, inspiring, and makes you want to have friends¬†over!
  • Cleaning out your closet¬†is such a help. You remember all the cute stuff you have, and actually want to enjoy¬†all your clothes instead of¬†pulling the top t-shirt out of the drawer again.
  • Starting the day with a fresh glass¬†of water (squeeze of lemon optional) clears away yesterday and sets a good intention for the day’s health.
  • A clean kitchen is more fun to cook fresh meals¬†in. Dishes piled up make you want to order pizza – or just go out!
  • A pretty, organized, health-filled fridge leads to nice options being more appealing (e.g.¬†berries you already rinsed and neatly stacked yogurt cups).
  • The people you¬†spend time around¬†influence your ambitions, self-worth, and attitude.
  • A balanced budget makes you aware of what you have, and frees you to spend on what you need/ give to others.
  • A good team environment – people giving their all and being¬†happy to be there¬†– makes practice so much better.

I’m sure you can think of examples in your own life where an environment change, “cleaning house” or “starting fresh” made things right. It’s the changes that take place in your mind as much as it is the physical changes that¬†make the difference. The mind is where all of our¬†actions originate, so why not weed and water the roots?

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Visual cues. A clean desk with a visible to-do list surrounded by space lets you know that you have room to tackle those items. Placing the things you love on your desk, in your kitchen, or on your walls reminds you what you care about. Keeping our loves and visions in mind is one of the biggest keys to living a happy and fruitful life.

When¬†I know¬†I¬†cleaned,¬†my room has a certain¬†lightness – like I dropped a heavy weight. This lightness can carry over to anyone who enters your space – not just you – thus improving your relationships and the lives of those around you. When you take the trash out and light a candle, the place just feels good, doesn’t it? Aromatherapy is a whole different¬†subject, but a good-smelling space can really¬†boost¬†your mood.

Knowing you cleaned up – even if things still aren’t perfect – contributes to good self-efficacy vibes. The physical act of cleaning seems to stir up the mind, allowing us to usher in new thoughts. Even those tasks you don’t enjoy… when I finish¬†my laundry (which requires climbing flights of stairs and $1.25 per load), I feel like the baddest girl on the planet.¬†I know if I can tackle things I really dislike, without anyone making me, I can handle life as it comes at me.

Cleaning has a lot of parallels with making good dietary choices. If I can be kind to myself by doing the dishes, making sure my sheets are clean, etc. – I see similar benefits to those that come with making healthful¬†food choices. There is power in action. Doing what’s good for us and experiencing the positive rewards makes us want to do it more. Even when some junk piles up, we can “take out the trash,” mentally or physically, and experience a fresh¬†space again.

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Here’s a few ¬†ways to get¬†this bright, fresh, clean feeling in your life today:

Whatever you see that’s a mess – for me usually the pile of clothes in the floor – tidy¬†it up. Find a home for those homeless items. Your space will thank you.

Sweat. Exercise jogs the mind like moving and cleaning does, and can renew your focus. You can even use cleaning as exercise!

After you break a¬†sweat, shower. There’s nothing like a hot shower to refresh you. Which brings me to…

Water.¬†The ultimate cleansing substance. Did you know juice cleanses and “detoxes” are a myth? The body does all its own cleansing and detoxifying, all day, every day – and water is the #1 to help move those processes along. Water is also highly concentrated in fruit and veggies, and this is one reason they are great for you. If you ever feel like you need a “system restart,” water and foods with a high water content are¬†the places to look. It’s good for the mind, too, because our brain needs it! Drink an icy cold glass when you’re having trouble focusing, and you’ll typically see improvement.¬†If¬†it’s cold out, brewing a hot cup of water with¬†lemon, or even herbal tea, has the same cleansing effects.

Clean out the fridge. Get rid of old stuff, stuff you’re sick of, and stuff that doesn’t make you feel happy and healthy. This is even better if you’ve got a friend to help you! You’ll let someone else in on the process, they’ll feel good too, and you might be inspired to cook something good together later.

I hope you’re motivated¬†to sweep the dust away today!

Stay bright,

Rae