Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Healthy New Year

Ah, New Year's Resolutions...
Photo Cred: Stephen Jerkins
I have never been one to really make them.  I have tended to be more of a stand-and-watch-others-make-them type.  This was for many reasons, the main one being that I don't want to try to be my best self only at the beginning of the year.  That, and I'm also known for making over zealous goals that are not sustainable much past January 2nd!

But this year feels different...

Photo Cred: Carrie Joy Photography

On one hand it feels different because I'm starting off the New Year with an actual resolution, well, maybe more of a lifestyle change, or paradigm shift.  For so long I have used food as a way of self-reward, self-soothing, self-reliance, and any other self-hyphen word you can think of!  Food has always been something I could control, create with, and wield for better or for worse.  It seems like the last couple years I have slipped into the "worse" category.

I know this new way of thinking about, and experiencing food will actually be a lifestyle change because I began practicing it early during the holiday season.  Carrying it through the New Year is just a continuation of what I'm already doing.  My resolve is intact pre-New Year!

The New Year Me looks a little something like the following:  I am eating less sugar, and focusing on they "why's" of my eating.  Am I eating because I'm stressed?  Do I just want some feel-good feelings at the end of the day?  What do I really want to be controlling right now?  And is that even something I can actually control?  If I do want the feel-good feelings, I know where I can get them: a warm cup of tea or a hot bath, a deep talk with a friend or my husband, or inhaling some of my favorite calming smells.  All great options available to me any time!

This New Year Me will also be doing a Challenge with a wonderful group of people with accountability, daily check-ins, exercise ideas, recipes and more.  And the best part is that you can join me and this wonderful group!  To join in- contact me (side bar) for more information or check out more here.  Once you are a part of my team, you will receive more information and an invite to a Facebook group where we will all "gather" for the Challenge.

Try if you can to sign up before January 1st!  For anyone joining the fun Challenge by January 1st, there will be an additional gift from me to you! 

Here's to a Wonderful New, Healthier Year!
Photo Cred:  Stephen Jerkins

Monday, December 22, 2014

Connecting with Scent

Smells are powerful things.

Journey with me as I take us on a brief science lesson into the power of scent...

Whenever I walk past a place baking fresh bread, I am filled with memories.  Not just memories of events, like baking with my Granny as a child or laughing with friends in a bakery kitchen back when I was in Colorado,  but body memories.  My biology remembers hundreds of times when I ate similar carbohydrate rich baked goods, and my body can recall the pleasantness of getting a boost of serotonin.

Smell is not just linked to the thought of a happy event from the past; it's linked to physical, mental, and emotional processes in our bodies.

Of course, not all smells are associated with positives.

There is a small almond-sized part of the brain called the amygdala.  Our sense of smell is the only sense that goes straight to the amygdala.  Do you know what the amygdala does?  It regulates emotion.  Also, it sends out signals if triggered by something to Fight, Flee, or Freeze.  This means that when you smell something associated with early trauma, you may be triggered to fight or run away.  Sometimes that doesn't exactly look like punching or actual running, either.  You may have your stomach and other muscles clench, or perhaps you may even check out for a bit.

This is why smell is so powerful.  For better or for worse.

All those memories of terrible events or illnesses, evoking physical, emotional, and mental reactions, are linked in the brain with certain smells because you smelled something (we are always breathing :) when something bad was going on.  The smell and the memory (stimuli) "wired" together in the brain.  And what wires together will "fire" together.

For example, if you had an illness where you were hospitalized early in your life, your small nose inhaled certain smells (medicines, solvents, cleaners, sterilization chemicals, plastic tubing from IVs, and the list goes on and on).  All of these smells are now linked, or firing together, with the stressful medical event, which was encoded in the brain as trauma1.  Therefore, it's very possible that you may have a stress response (be triggered by the amygdala to fight or flee) when you enter a hospital or smell a similar sanitizing cleaning product.  This is just one example, but because there are many, many smells associated with multiple unpleasant memories or stressful events.  Thousands of similar scenarios exist.

But here is the good news, my friends! 

The brain is plastic2; it has the ability to make new connections and re-wire!  But it cannot do this alone, it needs relationships.

This is why, in my home, we use smell as a big part of the way we connect with our children.  Connecting with others can be a challenge for my kiddos.  Re-wiring all the negative processes in the brain takes time.  But I believe that pure, pleasing smells help us bond with our children, and enhance our ability to bring them healing.

The smell of fresh-baked treats made from whole foods is now paired with the experience of me looking after their dietary needs and nurturing their bodies.  The sweet aroma of a high quality massage oil (free of chemical solvents and artificial ingredients, of course) is combined with safe, loving touch from Mama and Daddy.  We even incorporate some pure, high quality scents into everyday activities like homeschool time and our bedtime routine to reinforce the positive experiences we try to provide for our kids.

A quick note about the purity of a smell for foster or adopted kiddos: Since their sensory memory contains many artificial smells, chemical solvents, and smells of multiple toxins from their previous environments, carefully choosing a pure, high-quality scent to aid in connection is key!

So the moral of this science story is that connecting with our kids can be enhanced with the help of pure aromas.  Also, we must keep in mind our children's past when they are "acting a fool" because they may just be triggered by some smell that connected them back to their trauma.  In knowing this, we can be better equipped to re-wire their brains (and our own:) to connection!

What are ways you have seen smell play a role in your's or your children's lives, positively or negatively?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lemon Oil Chess Pie

(dairy and gluten free)
I'm a short-cut taker.  
I love recipes, but I always try to cut out steps if possible.  This pie was made with all you see here, full of traditional Southern style but with an allergen-friendly twist.  No dairy or wheat in this here pie.
A little cornmeal and any gluten-free flour will work.  But the secret ingredient is Young Living lemon essential oil!*  No zesting or juicing required for that old-fashioned lemon taste. 

Lemon Oil Chess Pie:

(dairy and gluten free)

  • 9" gluten-free pie crust
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free butter alternative, melted (Nutiva buttery spread is what I use)
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free unsweetened coconut milk yogurt (So Delicious brand is a good one)
  • 1 Tbsp corn meal
  • 2 Tbsp any gluten-free AP flour
  • scant 1 cup of evaporated cane sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 4-6 drops of YL Lemon essential oil*
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients, flour, corn meal, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
  • Whisk in the df yogurt, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla.
  • Finally, add in the drops of YL lemon essential oil, carefully so you don't add too many drops!  6 is probably plenty.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes in oven at 350 F until golden brown on top and set.  Tip: It should shake like a jello mold when set, as in the whole pie will jiggle as one!

*All recipes using essential oils on this blog are specific to Young Living essential oils only.  I cannot give recommendations and suggestions on any oils but Young Living's essential oils.  The statements made on this blog about Young Living Essential Oils have not been evaluated by the FDA.  These products and information are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  Anyone pregnant, nursing, or suffering from disease or injury should consult with a physician.  If you are currently on medication, please do not stop.  It's always good to do your own research.  I have done mine for my family and we chose to incorporate YL essential oils into our lives.  If you are wanting to follow and do the same, please visit here for more information. 
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