Merchandise Monday: Slow Down this Summer

Whatever happened to the concept of the “lazy days of summer?” Between the barbecues, road trips and sweaty days entertaining the kids, there isn’t room for a few hours of laziness, let alone days! As always, Hinda is here with a cure for whatever ails you.

Take advantage of what little “you” time you can scrounge up with some of our great new at-home spa products. These candles and bath products will restore your sanity and make you feel like you’re on an island vacation and not in your family bathroom.

H20+™ Editors Favorites Beauty Box

This collection of face and body must-haves features seven marine-infused skin-savers chosen by top beauty editors from around the world for glowing, radiant skin. The set includes Aqualibrium® Dual-Action Eye Makeup Remover and Sea Mineral Mud Mask, Face Oasis™ Dual-Action Exfoliating Cleanser and Hydrating Treatment, Sea Salt Body Wash, Hand and Nail Cream and Sea Moss Black Sand Body Scrub.

H20+™ Hydrating Marine Trio

This travel-ready trio of best-selling Oasis and Aqualibrium treatments cleanse, tone and protect skin with an infusion of hydrating seaweed blend and time-released liposome technology. The trio includes a 2-ounce Aqualibrium Marine Cleansing Gel, 1.7-ounce Aqualibrium Marine Toner and .5-ounce Oasis Ultra Hydrator. Put your best face forward this summer – and all year long – with these luxurious products from H2O+.

NEST Fragrances Luxury 6-Pack Votive Set

Packaged in a luxurious and sophisticated soft-touch gift box, this gift set comes complete with six mini votive candles in NEST’s classic top-selling fragrances, including Bamboo, Grapefruit, Moroccan Amber, Moss & Mint, Orange Blossom and Wasabi Pear. The mini votive containers feature a black matte finish and are wrapped in a distinctive band unique to each fragrance.

NEST Fragrances White Narcisse Gift Set with Candle

The White Narcisse Gift Set is blended with hints of French mimosa, dewy muguet and sandalwood and contains natural jasmine absolute, natural mimosa and natural narcissus extract. The White Narcisse Gift Set contains a full-size Body Wash, Body Cream and Body & Soul Spray. Also included is the White Narcisse scented candle housed in a handmade porcelain vessel adorned by a sculpted floral design.

If you can find it, taking time out for relaxation and rejuvenation will do wonders for you - during the busy summer months and all year long! Do you have a favorite way you like to relax? Enlighten us in the “Comments” section below!

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Your Monthly Check-Up: Meditation, Down Time and the Power of a Good Night’s Sleep

Part III: Sleep

(Click here for Part I: Relaxation and here for Part II: Meditation)

So far we’ve covered relaxation and deep relaxation in the form of meditation. Now let’s talk about the ultimate in relaxation – sleep. Everyone needs it and most aren’t getting enough of it – to the detriment of every area of our lives. You’ll want to stay awake for this.

In “The Healing Power of Sleep,” Pamela Weintraub, Executive Editor of Discover magazine and author of Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic, uncovers just how sleep deprived we are as a nation, the detriment sleep-deprivation does to our bodies and minds and how we can turn this nocturnal habit around.

“People devalue sleep and are completely unaware of what happens to them when they have a deficit,” says James Maas, PhD, a recently retired Cornell scientist and one of the world’s foremost sleep researchers, according to Weintraub’s article. “As a society we are so habituated to low levels of sleep that most of us don’t know what it feels like to be fully alert and awake.”

University of Chicago sleep researcher David Gozal, MD, adds that we treat sleep like a “tradable commodity,” sacrificing it for everything from work responsibilities to entertainment or other lifestyle choices. We create this deficit because it can take upwards of months or years for symptoms of a sleep deprivation-related disease to surface, according to Gozal.

How many of you have used the phrase, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead?” I know I have.

According to Weintraub’s article, sleep deprivation, even by as little as one hour a night, can wreak massive havoc in the body and mind. Most people are aware by now that lack of sleep creates increased food cravings, increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and disrupted metabolism, all of which can lead to weight gain. However, not getting enough Zs can perpetuate a plethora of other lesser-known symptoms, such as hair loss, hearing loss, skin problems, insulin resistance, vision problems, sexual functioning and even cancer.

In her article, Weintraub recounts the story of Jason Karp, a 36-year-old hedge-fund manager and restaurateur who had reached a dangerous level of sleep deprivation before he sought help. An ambitious learner, Karp taught himself to speed-read and would spend long hours reading as opposed to getting adequate sleep – sometimes sleeping just two or three hours a night.

Karp began seeing double and was diagnosed with keratoconus, a disease that causes the cornea to progressively degenerate, sometimes necessitating a transplant. Then, he began experiencing prostate pain. His hair fell out in clumps and he broke out in a rash. Finally, one doctor told him his cortisol level was so high he may not live to see 40. Karp legitimately believed he was dying.

When Karp came across a bit of research that linked his rash to his keratoconus, he decided to try and cure himself by getting more sleep and altering his diet. Though it took some time for Karp to retrain himself to sleep, about six months later he had recovered from every symptom he was suffering with. And although Karp is an extreme case of someone who trained himself to forgo sleep, these are real symptoms that can occur in anyone suffering from lack of sleep.

Find out if you are sleep deprived by taking the quiz devised by James B. Maas, PhD. How else can you incorporate more rest, relaxation and sleep into your weekly agenda? Do you think you’d benefit from slowing down and taking time out for yourself during the day? What positive changes do you think you’d see? Talk to us in the “Comments” section below!

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Your Monthly Check-Up: Meditation, Down Time and the Power of a Good Night’s Sleep

Part II: Meditation

(Click here for Part I: Relaxation)

While you’re on one of your breaks, why not try a little meditation on for size? Meditation may seem like a fad due to its recent rise in popularity in the States, but it’s a wellness practice that’s been helping people around the world for thousands of years. As daunting as it is to even think about sitting still and being quiet in this time of hustle and bustle, even adding a few minutes of meditation into your daily or weekly routine promotes life-sustaining benefits.

In “The Strength to Sit Still,” EXPERIENCE L!FE fitness editor Jen Sinkler recounts her first attempt at meditation as a fitness buff and how it not only altered her thoughts about meditation, but her thoughts about thinking in general.

Instead of “crack[ing] open the meditation CDs that I bought three years ago,” Sinkler went all out for her first meditation experience with a 3-day beginner’s retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) in Red Feather Lakes, Colo. “…stillness emanates from the surroundings here, and when I arrive I finally feel like I have time to meditate,” Sinkler says. “Cell phones don’t work and my laptop is back home, edged out by the towel on the SMC packing list. I suspect this sort of sacred space can be created anywhere, but signing up for a retreat has given me formal permission to carve it out for myself.”

According to Sinkler’s instructor, Charles Rosicky, “The first rule of meditation is to have no expectations,” Sinkler recounts in the article. “It’s like being excited to go on vacation. The vacation you go on is never the vacation you think you’re going to go on. In the same way, it’s better to meditate without ambition.”

Unfortunately, Sinkler broke this rule. “I didn’t expect to find enlightenment over the weekend, but I did want the act of meditating to feel blissful, life-altering and important,” she says. “I didn’t go on the vacation I thought I was going on. Meditation felt…ordinary. Unspectacular and, at times, like déjà vu.”

But here is where Sinkler’s moment of insight came through. Although she arrived at SMC thinking she had never meditated before, she had in fact experienced the “flow state” of meditation many times, “during particularly good workouts or standout rugby games, where my focus was so singular it became everything.”

That’s all meditation is, anyway – focusing your attention on the task at hand; remaining in the present moment when unrelated thoughts attempt to disrupt your meditative flow. Focusing on your breath is a great way to get started. Sit comfortably and breathe. When your mind starts to wander, which it inevitably will, bring your focus back to your breath. The point of meditation is not to clear your mind. That is impossible. The point is to allow your thoughts to pass by your consciousness without reacting. You can always come back to them later.

“One of the first benefits is that you begin to see that you are not your thoughts,” says Ron West, ecologist for Boulder County Parks and longtime meditator, who was one of Sinkler’s instructors on the retreat. “We self-identify with our thoughts – meaning, bad thoughts equal bad person. You slowly see that thoughts arise in a vast and neutral space, and that it is possible to see that the mind is not solid. The thoughts just become interesting-to-look-at fish swimming in a very large aquarium.”

Sinkler has since incorporated 10 to 30 minutes of near-daily meditation into her weekly routine and has been singing its praises and reaping its benefits ever since her weekend retreat.

Stay tuned later this week when we wrap up our series with Part III - Sleep!

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Your Monthly Check-Up: Meditation, Down Time and the Power of a Good Night’s Sleep

Part I: Relaxation

We’ve talked a lot about exercising, eating right and the benefits of corporate wellness to your bottom line in our monthly column. But something we haven’t discussed is how sleep, relaxation and meditation all contribute to your overall health and well-being.

The March 2013 issue of EXPERIENCE L!FE magazine is chock full of information related to all three of these areas that seem to fly under the wellness radar. Many people don’t realize that rest, recovery and relaxation are just as important to a healthy lifestyle as nutrition, exercise and hydration. Relaxation in particular is beneficial in the workplace, since giving your brain a break lets it recharge and gear up for the next big task.

In “Take a Break,” the EXPERIENCE L!FE team urges that, “Random moments of ‘unproductive’ time don’t just make you healthier, happier and more resilient. They help you work smarter, too.” For example, have you ever come up with a brilliant idea whilst showering? We have, too – and so have plenty of other people, which prompted a discussion of this very topic in “Take a Break”:

You’ve no doubt heard the rumored story of Archimedes, who shouted his now-legendary ‘Eureka!’ when he stepped into the bath, saw his bathwater rise and suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he’d submerged, abruptly intuiting the answer to what had previously been an intractable mathematical problem.

“There’s a reason so much genius has occurred in bathrooms…and it’s the same reason we often get great ideas while puttering in the garden, getting a facial, taking a walk or just waking up from a nap,” the article states. “Because these are precisely the types of circumstances in which we’re not trying to come up with genius ideas, or really any ideas at all.”

Cognitive neuroscientist Mark Jung-Beeman, PhD, a researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., has dedicated his working life to studying the brain circuits involved in these eureka moments and offered up his insight for the article:

The body is relatively relaxed; the brain is being allowed to do whatever it likes, its circuits freed up for whatever associations and information-shuttling activities it deems worthwhile. And it’s those random associations that seem key both to large-scale breakthroughs and handy “aha!” moments. … While the brain lays much of the groundwork for insight by expending focused attention on a particular problem, certain parts of the brain must actually relax and be allowed to wander a bit for the necessary connections and associations (most of which are churned up by the more loosely organized right hemisphere) to be made.

According to the article, psychologist Joy Bhattacharya, PhD, a researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London, has perpetuated this point by using electroencephalography (EEG) to predict these aha moments up to eight seconds before they even occur. One key indicator is the presence of alpha waves – the brain-wave pattern associated with relaxation – emanating from the right hemisphere of the brain. Bhattacharya suggests this activity makes the mind more susceptible to new and creative ideas.

The moral of this story is that, “Beyond a certain point, sitting for hours at your desk and working harder to solve that problem or come up with that big idea may actually work against you.” The article suggests listening for your “ultradian rhythms” – bodily cycles that occur many times throughout your day – and paying attention to when your body is telling you it’s time for a break. Get up for 20 minutes after every 90- to 120- minute cycle of energy expenditure and let your brain recharge. You’ll end up being more productive than if you don’t!

Stay tuned next week when we cover Parts II and III of our series - Meditation and Sleep!

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