3 Spring Hikes You Need to Take

Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and bees are buzzing; it’s spring. That sweet spot of warmth just after the winter and cool breeze right before the summer is a great time to get active. And, with the gorgeous weather and longer days, why not go out on a hike?

 

Here are three hiking trails that are perfect for the spring.

 

Maroon Lake Scenic Trail – Aspen, Colorado

Aspen’s icy, snowy mountains are a central highlight of Colorado. Now, imagine hiking through the stunning mountains in the scenic beauty that only spring can offer. The trail, while only a mile long, offers some of the best views of Colorado’s Maroon Bells—two mountain peaks that have become popular tourist destinations—in the world. The trail also offers up-close views of the crystal clear Maroon Lake, as well as mountain goats and bighorn sheep. This is one hiking trail you won’t want to miss.

 

Smoky Mountains Cove – Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Drawing in a staggering 11 million visitors last year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by far the most visited national park in the country; and with good reason. Home to a diverse amount of wildlife and plant life and breathtaking vistas, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is well deserving of its title. In order to get a sense of some of the flora this park has to offer, make sure to take the Cove Hardwood Self-Guided Nature Trail. This ¾ mile trail features the park’s most famous plants, like mountain laurel and flame azaleas.

 

Grandfather Mountain – North Carolina

A hike located in my home state, Grandfather Mountain is probably the most unique trail on this list. I say that because it does not include one single trail; it boasts 11 trails, all varying in difficulty level and experience. Ranging from easy-going, flat hikes that take you past rolling meadows and green pastures, to rough and tough trails that require a decent amount of hiking experience in order to complete, Grandfather Mountain has it all. Regardless of which trail you choose, you are sure to enjoy a magnificent view. In addition to hiking, Grandfather Mountain includes a nature museum, a fudge shop and even a restaurant.

Health Tips: 5 SuperFoods You Should Be Eating Pt. 2

A few years prior, I had written an article detailing five incredibly healthy foods to eat for maintaining a healthy mind and body. Since it has been so long, and there are still so many more healthy foods out there, I figured I could add on to the list. So, without further ado, here are five more superfoods that you should be eating every week. Also, remember to keep a journal of the foods that you eat, and how they affect you in order to fine tune your diet for optimal health benefits.

 

Avocados

Jonathan Farber, PhD - Health Tips: 5 SuperFoods You Should Be Eating Pt. 2Coming from the tree scientifically known as Persea americana, avocado is one of the healthiest fruits on the planet, even though it is often confused for a vegetable. Loaded with more potassium than a banana—975 milligrams to be exact—avocados are tremendously beneficial for both the mind and body. They even contain multiple important vitamins and nutrients like folate and vitamins C, B5 and E. If that weren’t enough, the avocado—also known as the alligator pear—contains no cholesterol or sodium, and are very low in saturated fat. This wonderfruit can even be used as a substitute for butter in certain recipes in order to create healthier variations of traditionally unhealthy foods.

 

Oranges

Jonathan Farber, PhD - Jonathan Farber, PhD - Health Tips: 5 SuperFoods You Should Be Eating Pt. 2Beloved for their high amounts of vitamin C, oranges are among the world’s most popular fruits. But they can offer so much more than vitamin C. For example, studies suggest that daily consumption of orange juice for four weeks can thin your blood, which significantly decreases blood pressure. Their citric acid content helps prevent the development of kidney stones and anemia. Oranges are also high in fiber, folate and even potassium. Put simply, oranges are incredibly efficient at preventing illnesses and maintaining a healthy diet. They are also incredibly tasty.

 

EggsJonathan Farber, PhD - Health Tips: 5 SuperFoods You Should Be Eating Pt. 2

Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the face of the planet, and rightfully so, considering that it needs as many nutrients as possible in order to develop a baby chicken. Some of those nutrients include vitamins A, B5 and Phosphorous. And although they are high in cholesterol—212 milligrams—they don’t necessarily raise a person’s cholesterol level. In fact, eggs typically raise the amount of “good” cholesterol—HDL— in a person’s blood. High amounts of HDL can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and other health issues. Some other health benefits that eggs provide include high amounts of choline—a nutrient necessary for the building of cell membranes—, and the prevention of blindness and gaining weight.

 

CarrotsJonathan Farber, PhD - Health Tips: 5 SuperFoods You Should Be Eating Pt. 2

Not just the food of bunnies, carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, potassium, fiber and antioxidants. The orange vegetable also provides an incredible amount of health benefits, including eye health, lower blood cholesterol and weight gain. And although carrots are popular for their vitamin A content, which helps prevent blindness, they also have an important effect on one of the world’s deadliest diseases: cancer. Studies suggest that by maintaining a diet with high amounts of carrots, you can potentially protect yourself from prostate, colon and stomach cancer. This makes carrots one of the most important vegetables that any person can eat.

 

Chia Seeds

Jonathan Farber, PhD - Health Tips: 5 SuperFoods You Should Be Eating Pt. 2It’s hard to believe that such a small food could contain so many health benefits, but chia seeds defy expectations. Only one ounce of chia seeds contains an incredible amount of nutrients, including fiber, protein, fat, calcium and magnesium. They are also high in antioxidants, which can prevent the development of cancerous cells. Chia seeds have even shown their ability to improve the health of those with type 2 diabetes, reducing both blood sugar and pressure. The tremendous health benefits of the chia seed are far too valuable to ignore, and because of their bland taste, they can be easily incorporated into most diets. You owe it to yourself to fit this superfood into your diet.

Mindful Meditation: An Easy Guide to Learning How to Meditate

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Meditation has been around for thousands of years, as a tool people use to relax, to center themselves, and to practice mindfulness.

Even though the academic research on mindfulness meditation isn’t as robust as, nutrition or exercise, there is a reason why it’s been around for so many years. Researchers are starting to get a better understanding of why meditation seems to be beneficial for so many aspects of life, from disease and pain management, to sleep, to control of emotions.

So now you are probably thinking, sounds great, how can I get started? Well, here are the simple and easy steps to begin your journey into Mindful Meditation.

The place

Set aside a special place for mediation, the atmosphere you build up will help still the mind.

The time

Choose a time when your mind is free of everyday concerns – dawn and dusk are ideal.

The habit

Using the same time and place each day conditions the mind to slow down more quickly.

The posture

Sit with your back, neck and head in a straight line, facing north or east.

The breath

Regulate your breathing – start with a minute of deep breathing, then slow it down. Establish a rhythmic breathing pattern – inhaling then exhaling for about three seconds.

The mind

Instruct your mind to remain quiet for the duration of your meditation session.

The focal point

Now bring the mind to rest on the focal point of your choice, either the Ajna Chakra (the point between your eyebrows) or Anahata Chakra (in the middle of your chest).

The object

Choose an object of concentration such as a mantra, a positive quality like love or compassion, or any symbol of an uplifting nature. Hold your object of concentration at your chosen focal pint throughout your session.

Giving space

Give your mind some space. Allow it to wander at first. It will jump around, but will eventually settle down into concentration as your breathing becomes more rhythmic.

Disassociating

If the mind persists in wandering, simply disassociate from it, and watch it objectively, as though you were watching a film.

Pure thought

Meditation comes when you reach a state of pure thought, but still retain your awareness of duality.

Samadhi

After long practice, duality disappears and Samadhi, the superconscious state, is attained.

How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life

jonathan farber phd

Mindfulness is the art of living in the present moment. Many of us go through life on autopilot. We focus too much on our thoughts and this can cause unhappiness. By living in the present we realize that a lot of our stress and anxiety is actually unnecessary.

1. Mindful Walking

Mindful walking can be practiced in your daily life. It brings you into the present moment, free of expectation or worry. Focus on nothing but the moment, and your surroundings. Take it all in. It’s okay if you don’t master it immediately, this takes practice!

  • Rhythm

Align your walking to the rhythm of your breath. This involves lifting one foot on the in-breath and lowering it on the out-breath. Practice this indoors until you feel comfortable enough to try it outside.

  • Be aware

How does the ground feel beneath your feet? What is going on around you? What is your body doing? Any soreness or tightness?

2. Mindful Breathing

This simple discipline is about awareness of the breath. Most of us go through life without noticing this natural ebb-and-flow. Breathing mindfully brings you into the present moment, enabling you to cultivate a calmness of the mind. Here are a few pointers to help develop mindful breathing.

  • Get Comfortable

Sit in a relaxed position, back straight. It doesn’t matter whether your eyes are open or closed, the main thing is being comfortable.

  • Observe Your Breath

Simply observe each in and out breath you take. Notice the expansion of your stomach with each intake.

  • Be non-critical

The aim is to focus the mind on breathing. Don’t worry if your mind wanders off – just try not to be critical! It may wander off a hundred times. Whenever you notice that, bring your focus back to your breath.

3. Mindful Eating

Eating is at the very heart of our well-being, and yet so many of us take it for granted. Mindful eating helps re-tune our awareness to the simple act of nourishment. By doing so, we cultivate a fresh appreciation for food and the environment around us in the here and now.

  • Take Stock

Before practicing, have a look at your eating habits. Do you rush your meals? Are you eating while thinking of a million other things? Do you ever notice the taste sensations exploding on your palate?

  • Organization

When you have a meal, make sure you focus solely on the experience. No working while you eat, or surfing the web, or watching tv. Just let it be you, and your food in the moment.

  • Be Sensitive

Use and observe your senses as you eat. Take a moment to feel the texture; be aware of the smells and appearance. Notice how different tastes affect you.

4. Mindful Attitude

It takes time to develop a mindful attitude. The cultivation of mindful habits, such as walking, eating and listening, creates the ground from which a truly mindful attitude emerges.

  • Non-judgement

We are conditioned to make unnecessary judgements everyday. Part of developing a mindful attitude is learning not to judge everything. When there is a genuine need for a judgement, the mind is clear and the judgement wiser.

  • Patience

Mindfulness isn’t something that comes from being intellectually aware of the idea. We need to practice the art of being in the present moment every day, and this requires patience.

  • Non-striving

By constantly desiring things, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We create an almost permanent state of dissatisfaction. There is nothing to expect from mindfulness, nothing to achieve.

  • Letting go

Clinging onto experience can cause us to get stuck and fill our minds with clutter. Allow it to come and go naturally.

5 Tricks To Help You Get Back Into A Winter Exercise Routine

1. Have a plan.

Whether it’s a full morning of cardio, a class, or a quick run, have a plan in place. That way, you’re not wasting any time trying to figure it out. Lay out all of your equipment, gym bag, water bottle and whatever else you’ll need the night before. By planning out what you are going to do at the gym, you know exactly how much time you will need, providing yourself with the potential to have a scheduled and punctual day.

2. Wear your workout clothes to bed.

When it’s cold outside, or in the house, no one wants to get out of the covers or change into workout clothes. Plus, sleeping in your workout clothes can save you precious time in the morning! And honestly when you’re already dressed, you’re taking one less obstacle out of the way. Just do it.

3. Don’t make it a choice. The big difference between those who go to the gym and get it done and those who don’t and feel guilty later is that those dedicated exercisers Just. Do. It. It’s not optional. It’s not “Oh, if I feel like it, I’ll wake up and work out tomorrow.” They make the decision the night before. And when it’s time to wake up and go, that’s that. No fights. No compromising. No negotiation. It’s just something that they do. And you have just as much power to make that happen, too.

4. Collaborate with a friend.

Having a gym buddy is not only a good motivator, it also helps to keep you accountable! It is easy to change your mind on your own plans and tell yourself, ‘I’ll just work out tomorrow instead’ but when you have plans to meet a friend at 6 and go to that yoga class together, now cancelling those plans means a whole lot more. Use your friends and colleagues for support, even a little friendly competition couldn’t hurt. Try and see who can make it to the gym the most times in a month, and winner gets a prize.

5. Keep your workout fresh.

Doing the same routine over and over can get boring quickly. It makes the time drag on, it’s hard to get motivated for, and honestly, it’s not the most beneficial to your body either. By rearranging your routines, it keeps things more refreshing and utilizes MORE muscles in your body. For example, try running a few days, riding a bike other days, focusing on weights another, and so on. It keeps things a little more entertaining and helps fill the time!

Why Sleep Is Imperative For A Good Workout

sleep-stress-exercise

Researchers have known for some time that sleep is essential for weight maintenance and hormone balance. Recently, the research on sleep has been overwhelming, with mounting evidence that it plays a role in nearly every aspect of health.

While diet and exercise have been a part of public health messaging for decades, doctors and health advocates are now beginning to argue that getting quality sleep may be just as important for overall health.

“Sleep is probably easier to change than diet or exercise,” says Dr. Michael Grandner, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “It may also give you more of an immediate reward if it helps you get through your day.”

According to a study done by SleepFoundation.org, when our brains are overtired they can prompt us to eat more. Some hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite aren’t even able to work properly if you have not gotten enough rest.

Sleep experts claim that it is one of the top three, and sometimes the most, important lifestyle adjustments one can make, in addition to diet and exercise. And while there’s more evidence linking diet and exercise as influential health factors, sleep is probably more important in terms of brain and hormonal function, Grandner says. “Among a small group of [sleep researchers], it’s always been said that [eating, exercise, and sleep] are the three pillars of health,” says Grander.

When it comes to adequate sleep, it’s much more personalized than previously thought. Some people feel great on five hours of rest, while others need ten. The best way to determine if you’re getting the right amount, doctors say, is to find out how many hours of sleep you need to be able to wake up without an alarm and feel rested, refreshed, and energetic throughout the day.

But to many of us, sleep is easily sacrificed, especially since lack of it isn’t seen as life threatening. However, now that you are aware of some of the consequences that sleep deprivation can have, start nourishing your body and give it the rest it deserves!

Health Tips: 5 Superfoods You Should Be Eating

As you know, maintaining a healthy diet is essential for both your body and your mind. Each day, you should think about what you’re eating and how it plays a large part in the way you act and feel. In order to keep track of whether or not you are getting enough nutrients and thinking of food as fuel, try keeping a food journal. In your journal, you’ll want to note foods that give you the most health benefits. Here are the top five superfoods you should be eating each week:

Jonathan Farber phdFirst, let’s talk about eating clean and green. Spinach is undoubtedly one of the most nutritious superfoods you can ingest. Though kale may be the latest diet fad, spinach is the long-term winner of the best green leaf that offers the most nutritional benefits. Not only is it free of cholesterol, sugar, and fat – but it’s loaded with calcium, fiber, and beta carotene (a nutrient that supports a healthy immune system and good vision). Though spinach is better for you if you eat it raw, it still has plenty of health benefits when cooked – so whichever way is more appealing to you, go for it (as long as you’re eating it!).

Next on the list are bananas. Bananas are loaded with potassium – about 400 mg each – which helps to lower high blood pressure, and in turn reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke (which happens to be the leading cause of death worldwide). Bananas are also filled with healthy, digestible carbs that help to fuel your body. Remember, you should always think of food as fuel instead of as a pleasurable indulgence. In addition, bananas are also known to help boost your mood and give you a better night’s sleep.

Next on this list are black beans, which contain complex carbs, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, iron, phosphorous, and magnesium. According to an article published by Men’s Fitness, “A 2011 study found black beans help improve insulin resistance, lowering your risk for obesity. What’s more, black beans have 15g of protein per cooked cup; that’s an impressive amount for a plant,” (10 Superfoods People Have Totally Forgotten About).Jonathan Farber phd

Almonds are another powerful superfood high in protein, fiber, vitamin E, and unsaturated fats. Many people tend to avoid them because they are high in calories. However, they are great for your digestive system, skin, and heart. Though you shouldn’t eat too many almonds each day, having a small amount as a snack at work or even before a workout is a great idea.

Jonathan Farber phdLast on this list are the ever-delicious, most always mistaken-for-veggies, tomatoes. Tomatoes are great for men in particular because they help with prostate problems. And, unlike spinach, tomatoes are more nutritious when you cook them. So feel free to slice them up for a healthy  morning omelette, a hearty salad for lunch, or even make your own pasta sauce when you’re craving italian – you really can’t go wrong by putting tomatoes in pretty much anything.

There you have it – a list of the top five superfoods you should be eating regularly. Though, keep in mind the saying, “everything in moderation,” because you should always pay attention to portions and controlling the amount of food you intake. Remember, it may be hard to get healthy at first, but once you continue to make eating clean a part of your lifestyle, you’ll notice the incredible health benefits that play a part in how you feel both mentally and physically.

 

Beginner’s Running Tips

Jonathan Farber, PhDBecoming a runner is something you should look forward to as it hosts a multitude of health benefits and can be essentials towards living a healthy lifestyle. But, like all new challenges, becoming a runner takes commitment, determination, and, yes – starting is hard. That being said, it is possible, regardless of your current fitness level, to be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping in less than two months. Here are some running tips for how to get there:

First, you should be familiar with the walk-run method – and you’ve probably heard of this method if you’ve been researching how to become a runner. The walk-run method helps you build cardiovascular power without over training your muscles and is often utilized by people who are just starting to get in shape. The idea of this method is to interval walking and running for a certain amount of time during your workout. This way, you can run for as long as you want, and walk when you start getting tired. You should try to run for 3 minutes, then walk for 5, and repeat until you reach the 30-minute mark. Each day that you’re training (which should be around 3-4 times each week), try to increase the amount of time you run by 1 minute.

Next, make a running schedule similar to how you make a to-do list for work or for house chores, etc. This will help you plan out how many days per week you will (or are able to) run and will help you stick to your workouts. Another helpful tip would be to pick a certain time of day to run and commit to that time period. For example, if you know you have a full day of work from 9-5 and have to get home and take care of the kids, you may want to wake up an hour earlier and get your workout started in the morning. On the other hand, if you’re not a morning person and know that you have an hour or so in the afternoon or evening to workout, go for it. Just make sure you don’t work out too late or you’ll jeopardize your sleep.Jonathan Farber, PhD

Another great way to get into running is to find a partner that wants to do the same and is a similar fitness level to your own. Having somebody to run with will not only make you more apt to stick to a schedule, but you will be more motivated to do your best. A little competition is always healthy when it comes to working out – but be careful of pushing yourself too hard. You don’t want to exhaust your body or pull any muscles, because then you will have to wait a few weeks to run again.

In conclusion, running is a great sport and you should be excited to get started. You will notice an increase in your energy, a change in your physical appearance, and your overall healthy lifestyle will increase for the benefit of your well-being. Good luck!

Ways to Reduce Stress

Jonathan Farber phd Stress-7508650Unfortunately, we all get stressed out from time to time – some more often than others. Whether it’s a quickened heart-rate, sweaty palms, or the feeling of being overwhelmed, stress is something we don’t choose but experience nonetheless. The good news is that we have the ability to reset ourselves and relieve stress very quickly. Here are a few simple ways you can relieve stress and live a healthier lifestyle:

The first tip will probably sound quite obvious and somewhat redundant, especially if you’ve been dealing with high stress levels for a while, but taking deep breaths helps to reduce tension and relieve stress because it gives you an oxygen boost. According to an article published by the Huffington Post, “While shallow breathing – a marker of stress – stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, reported NPR, deep breathing does the opposite: It stimulates the parasympathetic reaction, which helps us to calm down,” (20 Scientifically-Backed Ways to De-Stress Right Now). Deep breathing is the fastest and easiest way for you to calm down and bring your mind at ease.

Next, go for a walk for at least 10 minutes. Walking helps not only to clear your head, but it increases the amount of endorphins in your brain, which in turn reduces your stress hormones. Walking outside surrounded by nature is a great way to relieve stress because, according to the Huffington Post, it can, “actually put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as ‘involuntary attention’ during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection,” (20 Scientifically-Backed Ways to De-Stress Right Now). You should never underestimate the power of a walk through nature.

Jonathan Farber phd Stress-7508650Speaking of nature, buying houseplants is another way to help relieve stress because they induce your relaxation response. The Huffington Post notes, “One Washington State University study found that a group of stressed-out people who entered a room full of plants had a four-point drop in their blood pressure,”20 Scientifically-Backed Ways to De-Stress Right Now). Compare this to the group who did not see any plants, who only had a two-point drop, and you’ll be heading to your local plant store as soon as you can.

Lastly, listen to soothing music. This is a great technique to do before you go to bed because hearing classical, or other types of calming music, slows your heart rate, decreases levels of stress hormones, and lowers your blood pressure. As the saying goes, music really is the medicine of the mind.

For more tips on how to de-stress and increase your overall quality of life, check out the Huffington Post’s article here.

Reasons to Exercise Regularly

Jonathan Farber PhD exercise-stretchExercise is one of the most important things you can do for your body and overall health. Though many people only equate exercise with losing weight and gaining muscle, there are plenty of other benefits that result from a small about of exercise (about 30 minutes) every day. Here’s a list of just some of the many reasons why you should incorporate exercise into your daily routine:

First, exercise helps improve your memory. Many studies have shown that small amounts of daily exercise can help boost memory functions and increase the amount of information you retain while learning. Exercise helps more oxygen and energy enter the brain, which is why you most likely feel refreshed and think more clearly after a workout.

Next, your self-confidence will be boosted. Let’s face it, when you feel good – you look good, and exercising daily will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the way you feel. In addition, setting appearance aside, exercise helps you feel like you’ve accomplished something and knowing you’ve made an effort to help your health will further increase your confidence.

Jonathan Farber PhD Couple-Running2

Exercise is also a great stress-reducer. Working out increases the amount of endorphins that enter your brain, which act as natural stress-fighters. In addition, having a daily exercise routine will help you take your mind off the things that are stressing you out, and will allow you to release some of that stress by sweating it out.jonathan farber phd exercise stress

Getting an adequate amount of exercise each day will also help to improve your posture, which can have great benefits on your overall health and decrease some of the pains you have in your body, especially as you grow older. Strengthening your core and back are the most beneficial exercises to carry out in order to improve your overall posture.

Lastly, exercising on a regular basis will help you sleep, one of the most important qualities that directly relates to your overall health. Getting the right amount of sleep is extremely important for the way your brain and body function the next day, and unfortunately most Americans do not get enough of it. Working out will help you fall asleep faster, just make sure you aim to work out in the mornings or afternoons, because working out before bed may have the opposite effect on your sleep.

For more information on the benefits of daily exercise, check out this article published on Lifehacker.com.