Playing Board Game with Masks on

Coping With Loneliness Whilst in Self-Isolation

Fortunately, many of us have gone into self-isolation with family members or roommates, but there are many others who live alone. Whether an elderly person with limited forms of technological communication, to a young person in their first home, or a simply a person leading an independent lifestyle. A solitary lifestyle is not necessarily a bad thing. According to the Wall Street Journal in 2019 more and more Americans are happily opting to live alone. An estimated ‘35.7 million Americans live alone, 28% of households. That is up from 13% of households in 1960 and 23% in 1980, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.’ In the UK, a 2019 report from The Guardian showed that the number of people living alone was 7.7 million in 2017. However, with self-isolations, lockdowns and quarantines in place, living alone whether by choice or necessity, with no social access to the outside world, can quickly become demoralising. A home that was once a source of pride, independence and respite can become a lonely prison. Here are some ways in which to better cope with isolation and loneliness.

It seems obvious and it is something that many are already doing. Rather than just messaging on social media or texting, set time aside to call or video chat. Video chat apps are already seeing a rise in usage and there are many great ones available such as Facetime, Skype, Zoom, House party, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Isolation could actually be a positive in bringing more and more people together. Rather than distracted meet-ups with both of you on your smartphones, some may find that they invest in meaningful conversations and undiluted attention. Consider reaching out to an old friend, or take the time out to call that one friend that you both kept meaning to get together but life just kept getting in the way of.

If friends or family are not available to chat, try joining Facebook groups of topics you are interested in or online forums or live games.

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Look after yourself
It goes without saying that loneliness is a heavily mental state and the deterioration of your mental wellbeing will exacerbate your feelings of loneliness and depression. Treating loneliness as you would anxiety, stress, depression and so forth, by staying mentally healthy can have a positive effect or at least keep it at a manageable level. Therefore, exercise, healthy eating and perhaps other mindfulness activities such as meditation are key. There are plenty of at home exercise videos available at your fingertips and exercise is a fantastic way of boosting the happiness chemicals in your brain. Plus, healthy eating will prevent you from feeling sluggish and benefit your mental state too.

Embrace the time to yourself
Try not to wallow in loneliness instead chose to do those things that boost your mood and can be done alone. Although not a remedy for loneliness, spending your time doing things that you enjoy or that are productive or absorbing can really be a welcome distraction. Decide on a project and take the time out to focus on it, creative projects are always a good choice. If you are not creatively minded, perhaps learn a new skill that may be beneficial to you, or simply just for fun.

Do not necessarily put pressure on yourself to be intensely productive during this time either. It may be beneficial to stick to a schedule, take regular breaks and change it up your focus. Do not burn out on a project or spend all day playing a game, as you may just incite boredom and frustration. Take time to do things that you find enjoyable or comforting. Re-read a favourite book, play a game, take a bath or watch a film. Change your mindset, you are not stuck at home you are safe at home and you will not get this time back. So, use it as an opportunity to focus purely on yourself.

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Help others
For some living alone, perhaps the elderly living at home. The use of social technologies such as video chat is an unattainable solution. Perhaps they do not have many people to call and relied on outings to clubs to retain sociability. If you know of anyone in your area that may be at risk of this particularly harsh branch of loneliness, try to safely reach out. If you can safely do so (and they are amiable of course), perhaps offer to get the necessary essentials for them, taking down their phone number and checking in with regular chats, or sending handwritten letters. Small forms of human contact such as this can be tremendously beneficial to you both in such depressive and lonely times. Acts of kindness has been proven to be psychologically uplifting to both parties, that heart-warming feeling is a product of all kinds of happy hormones being released into your brain.

In the UK there are many charities and even Facebook groups that aim to help such people who may be suffering from loneliness in lockdown. If you cannot find a group in your area, perhaps start your own.

Mom Working from Home with Baby

Dealing With The ‘New Normal’ Living in Lockdown

Many people are now living in a state of lockdown, with children off school, non-essential business closed and many people off work for an indefinite period of time. As the pandemic continues to evolve, what is clear is that to survive this crisis mentally, a complete shift in mindset is needed.

Living in lockdown is a very strange situation for most people and it can take some time to get used to. It is very different choosing to work from home, as these days can often feel enjoyable and motivation can be high, with people thinking ‘yeh, I could get used to this!’ I actually had a work from home day the week before lockdown began and remember feeling the delight at being able to work from my sofa with the telly on in the background and none of the distractions that come with office life. It felt like a treat.

But that was then and boy, have things changed since then! It is funny how when that choice is taken away from you, the feelings experienced in exactly the same situation are completely different. Following Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement in March 2020, suddenly, the office I worked from daily was shut until further notice and all work from that point onwards would resume from home until further notice. Although this was a very strange situation to find myself in, this initial transition was made palatable by the fact that my children were still at school. I was still able to focus on my work during set hours at home without any distraction (ok, perhap I did get sucked into the odd TV program once or twice) and although the ‘novelty’ of having a work from home day had dwindled, I was still able to be relatively productive given the circumstances.

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Fast forward a couple of weeks and all UK schools were then closed until further notice, along with non-essential businesses. Suddenly, those working from home with children also needed to try and follow their school learning program, keep them entertained and remain highly focused on work. All of this while ensuring the cupboards remain sufficiently stocked and the house resembles some sort of order and cleanliness. With social media blaring out images of the ‘perfect’ household full of baking, yoga and other wonderous activities from the so-called ‘Wonder-mums of Instagram’, the bar was set unattainably high.

If you haven’t worked this out already then this is a recipe for disaster. It is simply not possible to continue ‘business as usual’, become a full time school teacher and keep all those other domestic balls up in the air. And with no end date in sight, you can’t even plan ahead to know how long this is all going to last for. And I couldn’t even have a Costa to make me feel better. Nightmare.

What is clear is that this is our ‘new normal’. Although a temporary situation, this is not going to be over within the next few weeks. We are looking at several months of disruption, along with a period of recovery which could take even longer. This realisation has led to many memes online about writing off 2020 and looking forward to 2021.

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In the meantime, life goes on. If you are lucky enough to have retained your job and can work from home then deadlines will continue to come in, alongside the educational requirements for the children and all of your other responsibilities. It is going to go on for too long to simply just ‘wing it’, you’re going to need a plan.

Accepting the current situation is likely to be this way for a good few months now (let’s put a pin in June shall we) is key to moving forward with this new normal. Understanding that there is going to need to be some compromise in all areas of your life is the next step. You’re not going to be able to complete that assignment whilst also helping a 4 year old with their english work and a 12 year old with their ridiculous science project. You are going to continually feel like you are being pulled from pillar to post and failing at everything if you keep trying to do things as you did before the coronavirus had even arrived on your home soil.

You’re going to need to work less hours, or at least spread them across your day differently. The kids will not get through all of the work they’ve been set, you probably won’t get to do all of the exercise you intended to do with the kids. You’re probably going to eat more too and maybe even drink more than you normally would. Don’t beat yourself up about it. These are crazy times and the most important thing is that you maintain your mental and physical health and that your family feel safe and secure. The rest really can just wait.

Happy Valentines Day

Tips For A Perfect Valentine’s Day From A Relationship Expert

Valentine’s Day Origins: Fox News spoke to expert Nikki Lewis who deals with love year-round to learn more about the heart-filled holiday. Lewis is co-founder of the BEVY, a bespoke matchmaking service located in New York and California, and explained that while the theories surrounding Valentine’s Day are murky, the stories behind them help contribute to the February 14th holiday that we celebrate today.

Valentine’s Day is great, but it also comes with a lot of expectations.

We spoke with Dr. Randy Schroeder, author of Simple Habits for Marital Happiness, about how to have a great Valentine’s Day with your significant other.

“After speaking with well over 1,500 couples, I truly believe that going out together is much better,” says Dr. Randy Schroeder. (iStock)


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Happy Couple

A Happy Partner Leads To A Healthier Future

Science now supports the saying, “happy wife, happy life.” Michigan State University research found that those who are optimistic contribute to the health of their partners, staving off the risk factors leading to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline as they grow old together.

“We spend a lot of time with our partners,” said William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the study. “They might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier or remind us to take our medicine. When your partner is optimistic and healthy, it can translate to similar outcomes in your own life. You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses.”

An optimistic partner may encourage eating a salad or work out together to develop healthier lifestyles. For example, if you quit smoking or start exercising, your partner is close to following suit within a few weeks and months.

“We found that when you look at the risk factors for what predicts things like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a lot of them are things like living a healthy lifestyle,” Chopik said. “Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity are large predictors. There are some physiological markers as well. It looks like people who are married to optimists tend to score better on all of those metrics.”

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and co-authored by MSU graduate student Jeewon Oh and Eric Kim, a research scientist in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, followed nearly 4,500 heterosexual couples from the Health and Retirement Study for up to eight years. The researchers found a potential link between being married to an optimistic person and preventing the onset of cognitive decline, thanks to a healthier environment at home.

“There’s a sense where optimists lead by example, and their partners follow their lead,” Chopik said. “While there’s some research on people being jealous of their partner’s good qualities or on having bad reactions to someone trying to control you, it is balanced with other research that shows being optimistic is associated with perceiving your relationship in a positive light.”

The research also indicated that when couples recall shared experiences together, richer details from the memories emerge. A recent example, Chopik explained, was Google’s tearjerker Super Bowl ad, “Loretta,” in which an elderly man uses his Google Assistant to help him remember details about his late wife.

“The things he was recollecting were positive things about his partner,” Chopik said. “There is science behind the Google ad. Part of the types of memories being recalled were positive aspects of their relationship and personalities.”

“There are studies that show people have the power to change their personalities, as long as they engage in things that make them change,” Chopik said. “Part of it is wanting to change. There are also intervention programs that suggest you can build up optimism.”


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Ayurvedic Medicine

How Ayurvedic Medicine Works

MANILA, Philippines — A patient complained of fatigue, sleepless nights, dry skin and heartburn. After checking the person’s pulse, ayurvedic doctor Sunita Laddha diagnosed that the physical conditions were caused by energy imbalance.

Ladda prescribed a series of therapeutic massages to remove the toxins and moisturize the skin, the pouring of herbal oil on the head for restful sleep, and a teaspoon of ghee followed by amla (Indian gooseberry) tea for the acid reflux that caused the heartburn. Ayurveda (“the science of life” in Sanskrit) or traditional Indian medicine has been slowly attracting Filipino patients as a complement or alternative to conventional medicine, given its mind-body approach.

Its precept is that health depends on the harmony of the body and the soul, and the balance of the life forces, called dosha, which regulate the mental and physical functions. Vata dosha controls the cell renewal, circulatory, respiratory and elimination systems. Pitta dosha rules the digestion, metabolism and some hormonal activities. Kapha dosha manages the muscular and immune systems.

“When one or two of the dosha are elevated, there is weakening ofthe system which could lead to diseases. Ayurveda aims to normalize them. We create balance by reducing the excesses,” explained Dr. Laddha.

A kapha imbalance is manifested by sluggishness, complacency, stubbornness, excessive mucous and excess weight. The center of the vata is in the gastrointestinaltract. The colon maintains the vata balance in the entire body. It is also associated with the nervous system. Too much vata results in sleep disorders, anxiety, dry skin, flatulence, constipation and irregular menstruation.

When pitta rages in the body, it is manifested by irritable bowel syndrome, fever, inflammation, body odor and bad temper. On the initial consultation, the ayurvedic doctor makes a pulse reading of the patient’s condition to determine which dosha is imbalanced. The basic treatment is the panchakarma, which means “five-step therapy.”

The foundation for the ayurvedic program, abhyanga, is a two-person coordinated massage that uses medicated oil and specific herbs formulated to address the patient’s conditions. Nasya, the application of medicated oil in the nasal passage, clears the nose, sinuses and throat.

Vamana induces vomiting to clear blockages in the respiratory system. It alleviates throat and chest congestion and asthma.
Virechana or medicated purgation removes toxins from the liver and gall bladder and purifies the pitta dosha (stagnation). This therapy is recommended for constipation and skin diseases.

Geared toward the vata imbalance, basti is more than just colonic irrigation. Medicated ghee is inserted in the anus like an enema. Vata, manifested by cold and dryness, sluggish blood and nerve circulation, is said to be the cause of 50 percent of diseases.The patient retains the decoction until the body absorbs the nutrients and flushes out the toxic residues.

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Water Glass

How to Tell If Your Home’s Water Is Too Hard

If you’ve ever dealt with a dry scalp or itchy skin, hard water might be to blame. “Hard water forms when ground water comes in contact with naturally occurring minerals such as limestone and gypsum,” says Chia Kung, Director of Global Project Management at Culligan International. “Over a period of time calcium and magnesium leaches into the water creating what we refer to as hard water. According to the United States Geological Survey, hard water exists in approximately 85% of the water in the country.”

In addition to water stains, if your water is too hard, you’re likely to discover particles inside your home’s water-dependent appliances, as well. “Hard water can lead to clogged pipes, scaling, and staining on surfaces such as shower doors and water fixtures,” Kung says. “It can also decrease the efficiency and lifespan of water-using appliances, including dishwashers, washing machines, and water heaters. If deposits build up, it can greatly damage their performance—which will increase your heating costs while the efficiency of your appliance plummets.”

To determine if you have hard water in your home, have your water tested, Kung advises: “A local Culligan Water Expert can conduct a free in-home water test.” If you prefer to test your water without the help of a professional, water hardness test kits are widely available for purchase, so you can regularly test the hardness (or softness) of your home’s water supply on your own.

If you discover your home has hard water, don’t worry—Kung says softening it is easy and beneficial for a lot of reasons. “Water softeners come in a variety of options to fit your home and budget,” he explains. “Water softening technology removes hardness from your water utilizing the process of ion exchange. Unlike hard water, soft water is free of the minerals that can damage your home and your body. In other words, it is gentler on both your body and home.” So, whether you call a professional to install a state-of-the-art system or simply invest in a freestanding style, ensuring you have soft water at home can positively impact many aspects of your health and home life.

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Tropical Jackfruit

Tropical Jackfruit Catches On As A Meat Substitute

If you’ve never heard of jackfruit, keep your eyes open: You’ll start noticing it everywhere.

Jackfruit is a very large tropical fruit often used as a meat substitute. It packs some nutritional wallop, and the fact that you can cook, chunk or shred it like chicken or pork makes it a go-to main ingredient in many vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Its flavor is neutral, and it takes to all kinds of seasonings.

Jackfruit is native to India, and also grows in Southeast Asia, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. It ranges from 15 pounds to a whopping 70.

For cooking, freshly picked, non-ripe jackfruit generally is used. Once ripe, jackfruit can be used in sweeter dessert preparations.

It’s available whole or sliced into more manageable pieces. Unripe, it’s green and unyielding; as it ripens, it softens, turns yellow, gets some brown spots and starts to smell fruity.

It’s also sold canned, sometimes in brine or syrup, and you can find various types in specialty and Asian food stores and, increasingly, traditional supermarkets.

Now, with many people looking for plant-based alternatives to meat, jackfruit’s trajectory is up, up, up.

Robert Schueller, head of marketing at Melissa’s Produce, a specialty produce company, has noted that upward trend for several years.

“It was about five years ago that the fruit started to really take off,’’ he says. “Vegetarians and vegans found out how this fruit could be used as a ‘meat substitute’ for pulled pork sandwiches and as a taco meat.”

As word spread in the U.S. about jackfruit’s versatility, Schueller says, Melissa’s went from selling a few cases a week to thousands of cases a week. Melissa’s also offers plastic containers of jackfruit pods containing just one or two servings.

Jackfruit also is popping up on menus across the country, at vegan and vegetarian restaurants, yes, but also in dishes at more mainstream establishments. Tomatillo, a Mexican restaurant in Dobbs Ferry, New York, has a quesadilla and taco made with jackfruit nestled in alongside other meaty and vegetarian offerings. In Chicago, Alulu Brewpub serves up Vegan Sicilian Jackfruit Flatbread on a menu alongside in-house cured pork belly.

Angela Means, owner of the vegan Jackfruit Café in Los Angeles, says people are turning to a vegan diet for many reasons, including environmental, health and animal-rights concerns.

“We eat meat because of the texture and the spices. Jackfruit is a great substitute,’’ Means says. “It’s one of the best choices for us because we can mimic meat, Jackfruit grows in abundance, and it has potassium, fiber, magnesium, lots of nutrients. We put it in tacos, and we make sandwiches, like a barbecue pulled `pork.’”


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Vegan Bowl

6 Steps To Switching To A Plant-Based Lifestyle

So you’ve decided you want to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle. Congrats! Going from consuming animal products (in your food and/or in your home life) to plant-based products sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult transition.

A little planning goes a long way, and if you consider your lifestyle choices an ongoing journey you’ll feel less pressure to do a complete overhaul right from the get-go.

My decision to eat plant-based evolved over time. It began out of an interest in my health, and soon expanded to include ethical reasoning and more recently environmental concerns.

I’m still in the process of “greening” my home and improving my culinary skills, and I’m constantly educating myself and doing my best to make healthy decisions.

But, I’ve been doing this for a while and have a few tips I can share to going vegan. Here are some of my favourite ways to make the switch to a primarily plant-based lifestyle.

I find plant-based cookbooks and blogs beautiful and inspiring — sites like Oh She Glows, Joyous Health, and Hot For Food are among my go-tos, and I love exploring new faves like Love And Lemons.

When I find a recipe I like I’ll add the ingredients to my grocery list and try to replicate it. I follow several healthy food social media accounts like Detoxinista, where I get a lot of inspiration for new plant-based recipes; Candice Batista is inspiring for green living, and Organic Bunny is great for plant-based makeup and beauty products.

House plants do such a great job of helping us connect to nature and for me, the act of tending to them can be a form of meditation — they add beauty to our home and I love seeing new leaves grow! And you may as well bring some house plants into the office, because research shows that when employees are near plants (such as on their desks), they’re less stressed.

Bonus: some house plants, like succulents, require little maintenance and are great for kids, who can learn how to take care of them.

When it comes to your health and the health of your family, you need to educate yourself to make good choices.

Understanding how and where to get all the nutrients you need from plant-based sources is important, and familiarizing yourself with ways to incorporate new foods and ingredients into your diet is particularly helpful.

Reputable websites like One Green Planet, Well + Good, and Mind Body Green (they also have a podcast) are easy, free ways to access helpful information. Government health websites are also a great, reputable resource.

Research can also be practical, like where to buy the best quality turmeric or what items to purchase in bulk, or how to incorporate nutritional yeast (a vegan’s best friend) into your cooking.

Research will also help you understand which ingredients to avoid, and with practice you’ll be reading labels like a pro.

Shopping at places that have already done the legwork is helpful. Get to know your local health food store; chances are the staff are excited about health and wellness and can help you navigate your vegan discoveries.

Eating out can get expensive really fast, and preparing meals at home is a fun and economical way to get excited about your new culinary journey.

Play around and see what works best for you; I have yet to perfect plant-based pancakes from scratch, but I found a wonderful mix that nails it every time.


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Prepping Vegetables

HelloFresh Teams Up With Lea Michele to Promote Benefits of Cooking Meals at Home

HelloFresh, the leader in delivering delicious ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes to households worldwide, announced today a partnership with actress, singer and New York Times best selling author Lea Michele to promote the benefits of home cooking. The new campaign will feature digital content with Lea Michele that showcases the positive impact that cooking fresh, balanced meals has on her life despite keeping an extremely busy schedule.

“No matter how busy my schedule is, HelloFresh is my secret tool to cooking delicious and wholesome meals that help me maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

“Wellness is really important to me in my everyday life and eating fresh and nutritious food keeps me feeling balanced and refreshed,” said Lea Michele. “No matter how busy my schedule is, HelloFresh is my secret tool to cooking delicious and wholesome meals that help me maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

By delivering delicious ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes right to your doorstep, HelloFresh gives homecooks everything they need for a successful, rewarding and satisfying cooking experience. With over 20 featured recipes each week, HelloFresh offers a variety of flexible meal options, including low-calorie, classic, family-friendly, veggie and 20-minute meals. In addition, customers can enhance their at-home dining experience with a selection of chef-curated meal additions that range from premium proteins to decadent dessert, quick lunches and savory sides.

“Feeding your body with nutritious and well balanced meals throughout the day is like giving it premium fuel, which helps with energy levels, mental concentration, and a general sense of well-being,” said Dan Nguyen, Registered Dietitian at HelloFresh. “The higher the quality of the fuel, the better your body will run, which is why HelloFresh offers a wide variety of meal options with fresh veggies, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates.”


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How to Grow the Best Blueberries

On a blueberry farm once you’ve planted the trees or the bushes, they could last for 45-50 years. It’s a once a year crop. We start working on the plants as early as Feb, it’s biting cold, says Ajay Naqvi, owner of Dealul cu Afine in Romania. This farm grows the Blu-ray and Coville and Chandler varieties.

I prune the 6,000 plants by myself, pruning is a very soft handed job and if you cut the bush in a way it’s not supposed to be cut, the plant will die, he adds.

Come April, it’s time to add organic fertilizer to the mix. All the 6,000 plants you have to put the fertilizer just above the roots and if there is need, depending on the weather.

By the beginning of May these plants are full of leaves, in June the fruits are out, they are really green and the transition from green to blue happens around mid-June. Every plant has to be de-weeded at least 3-4 times between February and September.

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