Friendship Is Good for Your Health

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Friendship and female companionship are key components for good mental health and feeling positive about life.  These are not your Facebook friends, these are your girlfriends who you actually talk to and actually go out with to do fun things.  This is the best screen free activity in our #GirlUBeWell blog series!

Face to face chatting, dishing, laughing and catching up are the underpinnings of a “girl’s night out.” A GNO doesn’t need to be an alcohol fueled, dressed to the nines kind of outing. It can be a night at a ceramics class, a dance lesson, a movie, a coffee shop or a shared pint of ice cream on the couch.

Even if you have a boyfriend or partner, make time for your girlfriends.  Put phones face down in the middle of the table and listen intently.  You never know who needs an attentive ear or some friendly advice or commiserating and you never know when that day will come when you will need someone to lean on in a crisis or to listen during an emotional time.

Research shows that friends are an important part of healthy aging and staying social helps you stay positive.  Start a book group or a knitting circle so you have to put dates on the calendar.  Other ideas are birthday dinners, walking group or spa weekend…just get dates on the calendar to spend time with your girlfriends!

Journaling for Mental Wellness

BWhat do Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who hid with her family in an attic during World War II, and Susan Sontag, writer, filmmaker and political activist, all have in common?  Each of these women wrote in a journal, or kept a diary.  Journaling can mean different things to different people.  For some, a journal is more like a to-do list or a food diary.  Others keep a gratitude journal or work out deep thoughts, almost a written therapy of sorts.  And remember the Burn Book from the movie “Mean Girls?”  That was also a journal.

Journaling is the fourth installment of our #GirlUBeWell Blog series because keeping a journal is a great way to organize thoughts, work out problems, encourage personal growth and help sort through emotions, happy or sad.   Consider a journal a safe place for deepest, darkest personal issues or the place to park troubles at night in order to stop the brain from ruminating on problems and disrupting sleep.

On the flip side, a journal can be a place to write about experiences in order to document memories.  A journal can also be a place for ideas and creativity and organizing insights.  Some people have found that by writing down one note of gratitude per day one can refocus a general outlook on life to be positive in nature.

There are a variety of ways to keep a journal as well!  Some people prefer old fashion pen and paper, and the variety of artisan notebooks highlights the popularity of this medium.  There are also apps available to journal on your mobile device since most people have a phone close by 24/7! And there is also the trusty laptop or desktop if fingers fly across the keys more comfortably than holding a pen.

Let a journal be the place for a brain dump!  Once a thought is on paper, or in the journal app, have a conversation with the brain to let this issue go and to stop mulling it obsessively.  If something gets under the skin, complain loudly and use expletives in the journal!  Consider this journal a private place to scream, to face down your fears, to buck yourself up and to voice your dreams, desires and wishes.  A journal is a judgment free medium so it should feel liberating to keep a journal.  Be well!

Plant a Summer Garden & Boost Self Esteem

gardenPart three of our #GirlUBeWell blog series to provide you with an off-screen, self esteem boosting activity is planting a garden.  If you start this weekend, you will be rewarded all summer long. Doing an activity outside gets you “back to nature” and an easy garden provides a soul satisfying experience of playing with dirt and nurturing a plant’s growth.

Even if your only outdoor space is technically a sunny kitchen window, or a balcony, you have enough space for a garden.  But even with acres of land, if you are a newbie, your best bang for the buck is to start off growing herbs.  They thrive in pots or in a small plot of land.

A trip to your local Home Depot, or Lowes, or hometown nursery will provide everything you need…the planters, soil and small plants of herbs.  Here is what we think will make the perfect starter herb garden!

Basil – Grows like a weed as long as it has good sunlight and regular watering.  Since is grows abundantly, pinch off leaves for a caprese salad, bruschetta or a quick pesto sauce.

Mint – Also a hardy plant that grows quickly!  If you put it in the ground, give it room to spread.  Mint is perfect for Mojitos and for infusing water.  Mix in chopped mint with lemon juice and Greek yogurt and you have a great topping for grilled food.

Thyme – Excellent all around flavor and easy to dry for winter use.  Thyme is great for a lemon chicken dish or in pasta sauce.

Marjoram & Oregano – Do you have a spice bottle of “Italian Seasoning?” These two herbs are staples in sauces.

Tarragon – Adds a rich, woodsy flavor to mushroom risotto or a chicken dish.

Rosemary – Excellent on roasted vegetables or potatoes and it smells heavenly in creamy sauces.

Sage – Another woodsy herb that grows quickly and the leaves are soft and fuzzy and a pale green that looks so pretty in the garden.

Chives - A subtle onion flavor and a welcome addition in salad dressing and on baked potatoes with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

This is a satisfying way to spend a few minutes every day and there are plenty of other herbs to consider!  Fussing over the plants, either watering or picking some herbs, becomes a daily habit.  Your finger tips will be fragrant with whichever herb you pick and it feels good to grow some of the food you eat. You might find yourself looking for easy recipes using tarragon or sage if you have a bumper crop, or taking a bunch of basil in a mason jar filled with water to a friend’s house to share.  Who knows, growing herbs might entice you to try growing tomatoes or zucchini next summer.

Knit 1, Purl 2…Stress Relief Just 4 You

YThe focus of our #GirlUBeWell blog campaign is to introduce a few analog activities for stress relief and to carve out some “me time” during the week.  Working, exercising, family obligations and overall busyness erode any free time to sit quietly and just be.  These quiet times are important to rejuvenate the mind.

Why knitting?  There are so many reasons but start with “community.”  If you want to meet new people, find a yarn store and purchase your yarn and needles there, take a class and join a knitting circle.  You can ask for help as you get stuck or have an expert available to pick up a dropped stitch, or help you rip a few errant rows.   Grab a few friends and make it a new kind of happy hour.  Sitting around with a bunch of women and the “click-click” of needles working always sparks conversation, and it is nice to talk versus text sometimes.

“Creativity” and “concentration” are second and third on the list of reasons.  As you gain confidence and skill, you will try new things.  It’s ok to make twenty scarves, eventually you will want a hat, socks or maybe some fingerless gloves.  As you learn to more stitches, you might move up to a poncho or a shawl!  Knitting requires reading a pattern and counting things, like stitches and rows, so it is an activity that demands focus.  Checking your newsfeed is not advisable!

Knitting a few rows is a great way to wind down your night, no yarn pun intended!  There is no blue light from a screen that revs up your brain and the tactile feel of soft yarn and the repetitive motion is soothing.  And when you hold a finished product in your hand, even a simple scarf, it is a gratifying sense of accomplishment.  For more on knitting and why it is a great activity to try, check out this Yahoo article or this HuffPost article!