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Boost Your Workout with Music

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Many of us listen to music when we exercise, but studies have shown that not only does music make our workouts more enjoyable, but it improves them as well.

  • One of the main benefits of listening to music when exercising is distraction – when we have the music to listen to, we don’t focus as much on any physical discomforts. Motivating music has been shown to increase our willingness to work harder, while at the same time our perception is that we are working less hard.
  • A steady beat allows us to maintain our rhythm while we move, which helps us use our energy more efficiently.
  • Music can elevate your mood, which might make your workout seem a little less daunting.
  • Music makes you want to move. Getting into the groove can stimulate your motor system, and you might start moving whether you planned to or not!

Reclaim Your Mornings

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For a lot of us, weekday mornings are consumed with getting out of bed, getting ready for work, getting the kids ready for school, grabbing something for breakfast, and running out the door hoping you haven’t forgotten anything important. But mornings are actually an opportune time to get quality things done and get your day off to a calm, methodical start.

Time management expert Laura Vanderkam says she sees gaps of 90 minutes or more between when people wake up and when they leave the house. She says we can streamline our breakfast, personal care and kid routines in order to reclaim some of this time for personal priorities.

1. Family time. Have a 30-minute, sit-down breakfast with your family. You can discuss everyone’s schedule for the day, make plans and check in with everyone. If family dinners are hard to coordinate, breakfasts can be especially important.

2. Exercise. By the time you get home at night, you’re often tired, still need to fix dinner, and you may have functions to go to in the evening. Exercise can fall down the priority list quickly. But if you get up and do it first thing, it can’t fall off the list. Plus, it gives you a boost of energy, revs up your metabolism for the day and improves the quality of sleep.

3. Personal hobbies. Again, evening fatigue can put our hobbies on the backburner, so Vanderkam suggests going to bed early a few nights a week and getting up early to spend some time doing something fun you enjoy before the day gets away from you.

4. Think. In the morning, your mind is fresh and uncluttered with happenings of the day. Take the time to think about the big-picture and strategize. Or you can try meditating, journaling or reading inspirational material.

Any of these activities, Vanderkam says, will help you start your day in a much better place than if you hit the snooze button too many times and start off in a time crunch.

Scent your Home Naturally

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You don’t have to depend on store-bought, chemical-based air fresheners to make your home smell better. Try one of these all-natural ways to give your house’s scent a boost:

Simple Baking Scents
If you want your house to smell like you’ve been baking all day, just pour a few tablespoons of vanilla in a mug and pop it in the oven for an hour at 300˚.

Stovetop Simmering
A surefire way to olfactory bliss can be found atop your stove. Put a small saucepan on the back burner with water and sliced fruit, herbs and/or spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer as long as desired. Just be sure to refill the water as it evaporates. Aromatic ingredients include citrus fruits, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, fresh rosemary, and extracts such as vanilla or peppermint.

Air Deodorizer
Freshen up a room with a small glass jar half-filled with baking soda and 5-10 drops of essential oils. Cover the jar with a lid that has holes, or a piece of cheesecloth or porous fabric. You can also sprinkle the mixture evenly on your carpet and let it sit 5-10 minutes before vacuuming.

Conquer Excess Sugar in Your Diet

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Do you know how much sugar you ingest every day? The American Heart Association estimates that most of us consume more than twice the recommended daily amounts — six teaspoons (25 grams/100 calories) for women and nine teaspoons (38 grams/150 calories) for men. This excess can lead to fat build-up around your organs, diabetes, high blood pressure, accelerated aging, and more.

But you can save your body and your health by conquering excess sugar today!

1. Learn sugar’s many names (anything with sugar, cane, syrup, nectar, or ending in –ose, such as fructose). It hides in surprising places, including salad dressing, breads, condiments, and processed foods.
2. Cut the amount of sugar you add to food and drinks by half and wean yourself down from there.
3. Drink only sugar-free or low-calorie drinks.
4. Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar – think cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice.
5. Use flavored extracts such as vanilla, almond or lemon instead of sugar in recipes.
6. Add fresh or dried fruit to cereal or oatmeal instead of sugar.
7. Reduce the amount of sugar used in baking by one-third to one-half. You probably won’t notice the difference.
8. Substitute equal amounts of unsweetened applesauce for sugar in recipes.
9. Try zero-calorie artificial sweeteners in moderation.

How to Make Chore Time Successful

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Doing chores may not be the most fun activity your family engages in, but it doesn’t have to be the worst thing either. Here are some tips for making the next family chore time better:

  • Cast kids in the role of “helper.” Research has shown that this word in particular motivates kids to want to pitch in.
  • Stay upbeat no matter the complaints, and make your own positive attitude your main concern.
  • Assess the job beforehand with the whole family and make a plan together.
  • Establish expectations for the day so everyone is on the same page.
  • Break the project down into manageable tasks – an important life skill for everyone.
  • Enjoy the camaraderie that comes with working together.
  • Forget about perfection – what’s important is that everyone participates, not that each task is completed to an adult level.
  • Be appreciative of everyone’s hard work.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments with a special treat for the whole family, like fixing ice cream cones or renting a movie.
  • Remember that the big picture of family work time isn’t the project, it’s the work ethic and perseverance being developed.

Why You Should Start Keeping a Gratitude Journal

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The concept of gratitude once might have been considered “touchy-feely” or “new-agey.” But when researchers started to study it, they were able to scientifically tie it to a variety of benefits, including feelings of hopefulness and optimism, better coping mechanisms for dealing with adversity, fewer instances of depression and addiction, and even exercising more and sleeping better.

Researchers have found evidence that when we feel appreciation for someone or something, it results in a calming effect on the heart’s electromagnetic patterns, which can, in turn, relieve hypertension and reduce the risk of sudden death from heart disease.

Further, practicing gratitude in a way such as helping someone who has helped you activates the regions of the brain that produce dopamine and serotonin – the body’s feel-good chemicals that promote feelings of happiness and well-being.

“In short,” says Dr. Blair Justice of the University of Texas School of Public Health, “feeling gratitude and appreciation on a regular basis helps heal us at every level of our being.”

Luckily, there is a simple way to start practicing gratitude in your life — write a gratitude list. This simple and powerful tool is the key to inducing feelings of gratefulness. Follow these steps and get started today.

1. Decide where you want to keep your list – on your computer, a spreadsheet, on your phone, or handwritten in a notebook or journal.
2. Set a realistic goal. Start with writing down five things you are grateful for. If you want to write more, you can, but work to always get at least five each day.
3. Write down specific things (your favorite flower blooming in your garden) and abstract (the innocence of children).
4. Settle for simple on a bad day. When everything is going wrong, you might have to focus on the basics – gratitude for a car that runs, a roof over your head, a spouse or pet who loves you.
5. Remember to make your list when you are facing challenges. This is perhaps the most important time to think about what you are grateful for.

Lightning Bug Fun Facts

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Nothing says “summer evening” like lightning bugs, also known as fireflies. These flashy little beetles can bring out the kid in all of us, but as we get older, we might start to wonder about our glowing friends. Here a few facts you might not have known:   1. There are more than 2,000 species of firefly, but not all species glow.2. Fireflies are bioluminescent throughout their lifespan — even their eggs glow.
3. Light patterns are unique to each subspecies of firefly.
4. Flashing is communication between males and females.
5. Firefly larvae live in the soil and feed off snails.
6. Luciferase, an enzyme in firefly light production, is useful in scientific research as well as forensic and food safety testing. (It can now be produced synthetically.)
7. Fireflies are efficient light-producers. Nearly 100 percent of the energy produced is light (the typical light bulb gives off just 10 percent light, and 90 percent heat).