According To Neuroscience, This One Unexpected Thing Will Wildly Improve Your Focus

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If it feels like your attention span is getting shorter and shorter with every new iPhone release and Netflix drop, you’re not wrong. Toss in an international pandemic, and most of our ability to focus is out the window completely.

Neurologists have found that we can maintain focus for about 20-minute intervals at best. So while we shouldn’t feel guilty about our wandering minds, we’re also not opposed to seeking out new strategies to help us focus for longer periods of time. Thankfully, neuroscientists have discovered a way to extend our focus, and surprisingly, it has everything to do with sound.

Yes. Sound.

These burgeoning fields of neuroscience and psychology, called auditory neuroscience and psychoacoustics, study how our perception of sound affects the brain, our thoughts, and feelings. And these new scientific fields have spawned the development of something called “streamlined music,” which is thought to help improve cognitive functions, i.e., the way we think, process, and yes, focus.

The Science of Staying Focused

Neuroscientists have extensively studied how our brains take in external stimuli, process it, and focus on a single thing, blocking out everything else. When we’re able to focus on something with laser-like, narrowed concentration, that’s called selective attention.

The process for selective attention is complicated, so I’ll spare you the endless jargon and focus on this one word: norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a neurochemical transmitter that works as a stimulant— it’s released from your brain stem (at the base of your brain) when you take in external stimuli, and it acts on your decision-making faculties. Basically, it helps your brain decide what to pay attention to, as it’s part of our arousal response of fight, flight, or freeze. For example, if you encounter something dangerous, norepinephrine tells you to pay attention to it.

The neocortex (or frontal lobes of your brain) is also incredibly important for focusing. While the brainstem plays a role in selective attention, the neocortex regulates something called executive attention. Executive attention calls the shots; it can override the selective attention of the brainstem and decides what to pay attention to, and what to ignore.

The last piece of the pay-attention puzzle is habituation, which is when you adjust to your surroundings until they no longer distract you. So, when you’re working from home, and your kids are playing video games, and your partner is listening to NPR, and your dog is barking at the neighbor’s cat— at first, all of this is hugely distracting. But after 20 minutes or so, you might start to drown them out, and they become background chatter. That’s habituation.

When you’re focused and efficient, then all these aspects of attention are working for you. But, at some point you’re going to get bored — remember, we can only maintain focus for about 20 minutes. Your mind will begin to wander, and when this happens, it’s called goal habituation, which means that you’re no longer interested in what you were doing (old goal), and now you want to do something else (new goal). This is when attention and focus can fall apart. If it’s not the noise and clamor of other people in the house distracting you from the task at hand, it’s your own brain, looking for something novel to pay attention to.

We need novelty. Every 20 minutes or so, we need something fresh to engage us, so that our minds don’t trail off into rabbit holes of Pinterest or YouTube videos or Amazon shopping. This is how sound helps.

The Right Sounds Can Help You Stay on Task

Neuroscientists are still studying how and why sound affects mood and our ability to focus, and they’ve found that people who listen to music while they work are more productive and happier. So like DJs in lab coats, neuroscientists have started playing with beats. Monaural and Binaural beats, to be precise.

Specifically, neuroscientists are interested in how we perceive these two types of beats. We can hear a monaural beat with one ear, but we can only hear binaural beats when we listen with both ears.

Beats are measured in frequencies. With a monaural beat, you have two frequencies being played together that the ears are hearing, but as the ears perceive the sound, the sounds either cancel each other out, or they amplify each other. With binaural beats, one frequency is played into one ear, and a different frequency is played into the other ear; from this combination of frequencies, your brain perceives a third sound. That third sound is what makes binaural beats intriguing because no one knows what makes it.

What they do know about binaural beats is that after listening to these sounds for a while, different areas of the brain that were pulsing at different frequencies begin to pulse in synchrony. While the evidence is far from conclusive just yet, this synchronization of disparate parts of the brain could be the reason people are better able to focus.

Participants in experimental studies have been found to have positive reactions while listening to binaural beats, like a slower heartbeat, feeling calmer, and improved focus. According to a study from the University of Southern Denmark, “there is also cumulating evidence suggesting that listening to binaural beats may increase sustained attention.”

To test this out, I played binaural beats as I worked on this article. YouTube is flooded with them— here’s one, if you want to listen. And though I can’t say for certain what helped me focus, I enjoyed the calming tunes and felt more focused overall.

If the number of binaural beats videos on YouTube is any indication of popularity, then it’s no surprise that all sorts of apps offering binaural beats are popping up, including one called Focus@will.

Focus@will has taken binaural beats and the idea of streamline music to create customized beats for its customers, and reports that customers are experiencing “decreased self-awareness, timelessness, and motivation known as ‘flow.’” Sounds good to me.

The company claims that their beats can help you maintain focus for up to 100 minutes straight! And a study they did (which of course, take with a massive grain of salt, because any study done by a company selling a product could demonstrate bias) showed that their clients improved focus by 200-400%. They also tout a pretty solid fan base singing their praises.

To be fair, there are dissenting voices out there that say binaural beats are just a bunch of hype. These writers refer to the sounds as “auditory illusions.” They report that people are being tricked into thinking that they are hearing something they’re actually not and that the beats have no proven benefit. Is it a placebo effect? Maybe. But if you think it helps you focus, then isn’t it helping you focus?

But the bottom line is this; the right sounds can potentially do wonders for your concentration and productivity. Will it work? Try it. At worst, you’ll be relaxed. Which doesn’t sound half-bad right now.

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

COVID-19 Causing You Anxiety Dreams? You’re Not Alone.

Sleeping Woman

A surprise to no one, our anxiety levels are at their absolute highest. And how we each handle our anxiety might differ, but our subconscious minds often cope through dreams. Lately, there’s been a huge uptick in vivid dreams.

“Many people have shared this has been like a ‘waking nightmare’ for them and are having more bizarre dreams than ever before,” says Linda H. Mastrangelo MA, LMFT, a psychologist and professor of Consciousness & Transformative Studies at John F. Kennedy University and Board Director of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). The “dramatic shifts from our everyday routines, not being able to reach for our usual ‘non-essential’ distractions as well as experiencing more sleep and /or erratic sleeping patterns is a perfect recipe for more dream recall, as well as nightmares and recurring dreams,” Mastrangelo, shared.

And while anxiety, lack of sleep, and the massive disruption in our routines are all contributing to our crazy stress dreams, how and why our subconscious psyches are in overdrive is a bit more complex. As it turns out, our anxiety dreams might actually be trying to protect our conscious minds. To understand why, we need to turn to the field of dream studies.

How Anxiety Impacts Your Dreams

With this huge increase in everyday stress, our anxiety dreams are taking on an entirely different character. Themes of intruders in your home, or feeling terrified that someone is trying to hug you, or the very literal fear of actually contracting the virus are all popping up in dream studies right now.

And although dream analysis isn’t a “hard science,” the field of dream studies can offer some interesting explanations for this phenomenon. Dreams help us integrate what happened during the day, what we watched before going to bed, along with our conscious and unconscious realities; so, dreams are integrating the part of you that is totally stressed out about bills piling up, and the part of you that is just outside your awareness— the subconscious one that is desperately afraid of not being in control of your life.

The originator of modern dream analysis, Carl G. Jung, saw dreams as integral to our nature, speaking to us in a language we intuitively understand—symbols—and ultimately leading to a process he called “individuation,” or the pursuit of the psyche to become whole and self-actualized, rather than fragmented. Our anxiety dreams, then, are a method for our subconscious to integrate with the conscious mind. In a very real way, your subconscious is taking the weight off of your conscious mind, helping you process your anxiety while you sleep.

Think of it this way. We live two lives: a waking life and a dreaming life. Dreams work in service of integrating our two worlds and creating wholeness in our psyches. So even though anxiety dreams can unnerve, even carrying over into the day as this uneasy groggy feeling, they are working toward a greater goal of psychological wholeness.

Use “Active Imagination” To Uncover Your Emotions

Marriage and Family Therapist, Isadora Alman, suggests delving into the emotions of our dreams for greater insight into ourselves. However bizarre the dream (why are my teeth always falling outttt), it is the feeling underneath the scene that reflects the real core of how you’re feeling.

“I have found working with dreams can be a gentle yet powerful gateway for healing, especially when it comes to identifying and working with emotions,” states Mastrangelo. She recommends the practice of “active imagination,” which entails assuming that your dreams hold emotional wisdom for you to uncover, and then picking something from your dream to “dialogue” with it. This is best done right when you wake up while the dream is still fresh, and you’re still in a restful state.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write down everything you can remember about your dream in as much detail as you can. Note the parts that held the most emotion.

  2. Next, select the part that was the most emotional and write about it, imagining that you can give it a voice. So, for instance, if you dreamt of a menacing animal lurking outside your home, you’d imagine that animal could speak to you and tell you why it’s there, what it wants, and what it has to say to you.

Whereas Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist who created psychoanalysis, thought all dreams represented suppressed desires (Freud had a slanted view of sexuality, as witnessed in his Oedipal Complex), Jung saw dreams as representing parts of ourselves seeking fuller development.

Jung suggested that each symbol in our dreams represents an aspect of ourselves. So, by giving a voice to these dream symbols, we are actually talking to different parts of ourselves. Working with your dreams through active imagining is a deeper way into self-awareness.

Four Ways To Ease Anxiety Before Bed

As much as we can use our dreams as tools for self-knowledge, we also want to be able to sleep soundly without waking up in terror-sweats 15 times nightly. So try these 4 strategies for a more peaceful sleep:

  1. Decompress: Give yourself time to decompress before getting in bed an hour or so before bed, have some quiet time, take a soothing bath or a hot shower, read, use a gua sha, watch something soothing.

  2. Write out your worries: during your decompression time, you can also write down all your worries until you feel that you’ve got them all out. (I know this has worked for me when my mind stops generating worries and starts wandering and futurizing.)

  3. Make your bedroom a “Worry Free Zone”: Dedicate your bedroom to sleep, sex, and other pleasant activities, so that just walking into your bedroom puts your mind at ease. That means PUT DOWN FACEBOOK when in your bedroom.

  4. Try out different relaxation methods: Listen to a guided meditation, or a relaxation app (ASMR and binaural beats are hugely popular in helping people relax), do some light stretching, or restorative yoga, or try progressive relaxation exercises.

Carl G. Jung coined the phrase the “collective unconscious.” He used it to describe how we are intimately interconnected through myths and symbols, and how these themes show up in the dreams of people across the globe. We all share the interconnected experience of our psyches being impacted by the coronavirus. This pandemic is a global collective experience. And we’re all dreaming through it, together.

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

What’s The Deal With Oat Milk? Is It Healthy Or Not?

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Before we get into the nitty gritty behind this explosive new (ish) health trend, let’s begin with this semi-insane fact:

There. Is. Now. An. Oat milk. Finder. Website.

Yes. It’s called Oatfinder. And it’s the brainchild of Oatly, the main oat milk supplier in the country. It helps consumers track down where to purchase this beloved elixir de rigueur, and because of this handy little tool, keeping Oatly stocked is becoming near impossible and causing baristas to break out into a light rash each time they have to tell a customer they’ve run out of oat milk for the day.

Though with a growing number of makers of oat milk – Oatly, Califa Farms, Mooala, Planet Oat, Pacific Foods, Dream, Silk, and Thrive Market (which not only makes its own plant-based drinks but is an online marketplace for their competitor’s products alongside their own)—your options are becoming more abundant by the day.

With demand so high, smaller coffee shops are struggling to keep up. And because of this frenzy, huge outlets like Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks are scrambling to meet the en-masse demand of their voracious customers, as the rate of oat milk production has yet to keep pace with American consumption. Since they still want in on the action, they’re slowly stocking oat milk in as many stores as they can.

Clearly, the public is loving oat milk’s creamy, frothy, non-dairy goodness, as well as its relatively low environmental impact; oat milk is much more eco-friendly than regular dairy milk and requires less water during production than almond milk. But while we’re pouring it into our coffee by the gallon, we have to ask—are all these oaty carbs just turning into sugar and sneakily making us gain weight?

Do we really want the truth?

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What Is Oat Milk, Like Specifically?

Oat milk is a plant-based, dairy-free, milk-alternative made of whole oats and water. The ingredients are so simple that making your own batch is, in theory, “easy”—assuming you’re handy with cheesecloth and have a spare few hours to devote to laboratory-level experiments, which include soaking whole oats in water for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, blending them, and pouring the mixture through a very fine colander or cheesecloth to separate the solids from the liquid. From there, you can get creative by adding cinnamon, vanilla extract, or nutmeg. See? So easy! But the reality is, 99.9999% of us will not be doing this “easy” process, and most of us will be purchasing it ready-made. So, are these cartons and cartons of oat milk we’re buying….actually good for us?

Is Oat Milk Healthy? JUST TELL ME.

Annoyingly, the answer depends on how and why you drink oat milk. But to sum it up…it’s fine? Oat milk is probably not going to cure any diseases or help you magically grow abs overnight, but it’s a perfectly good alternative to milk and other non-dairy milks, with its own set of benefits and drawbacks that vary per brand and ingredients.

Here’s the good news; oats are a great source of protein and minerals, and have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Oats are also extremely high in fiber, which slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream, making Oat Milk a healthy alternative for those with diabetes.

If you’re simply looking for a milk-alternative to splash into your morning coffee that’s vegan, soy-free, and nut-free, then you may not care how many vitamins, nutrients, or calories are crammed into a few ounces of oat milk. If you want to reap the benefits of the wholesomeness of the oats, then you can make your own at home, and not worry about any additives or flavorings.

But if your morning alt-milk latte is one of your favorite sources of vitamins and nutrients, then surprisingly, store-bought is your best bet as oat milk manufacturers like Oatly add vitamins A, B12, and D2, calcium, and riboflavin.

If you want to lose weight or just maintain a healthy weight, oat milk won’t exactly make you pack on the pounds, but it’s also not the most slimming alt-milk. Oat milk has slightly more carbs, fats, and calories than alternative milks like almond milk, and a similar nutritional profile to coconut milk. But since carbohydrates get broken down into sugar, you’re not getting a completely sugar-free drink.

Even though the sugar in unsweetened oat milk is naturally occurring (don’t even get us started on the sugar-bomb flavored varieties), we all know how too much sugar can lead to weight gain. So, if you’re trying to cut out carbs and lose weight, unsweetened almond milk still might be your best bet.

Carbs aren’t fully the axis of evil, though; the carbs in oat milk will break down into glucose and turned into energy. Once glucose is formed, the body can use the glucose for energy or turn it into glycogen, a substance found in the liver and muscles. And if there’s still more left over, which means you’ve taken in more carbs than you can burn, it gets converted to fat.

So just like anything with naturally occurring carbs, fats, and sugars, you don’t want to overdo it.

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So, What’s Up With All The Oil?

Though oat milk seems like it would be made of a perfect combination of only the most gorgeously filtered water on the planet and the healthiest organic oats in existence, the second ingredient in most store-bought Oat Milk is oil, usually canola/rapeseed or sunflower.

Oil is a common additive in oat milk that increases nutritional fats and improves the texture. Unfortunately, this is what makes Oat Milk so rich and highly frothable (and therefore, delicious). As baristas worldwide will attest to, almond milk has fallen out of favor because unlike oat milk, almond milk is too thin for a good foam, making latte art so difficult and so deeply uninstagrammable.

Canola oil, also known as culinary rapeseed oil (as opposed to industrial rapeseed oil; and why, god, why the name rapeseed?) is actually a pretty good source of vitamin E, is low in saturated fat (the bad fat) and is high in mono- and polyunsaturated fat (the good fats).

The bad news? Rapeseed oil, which canola oil derives from, is typically high in erucic acid, which in the 1970s was linked to heart problems. In the U.S., for an oil to be classified as “canola,” and not “rapeseed,” no more than 2% of its fatty acid profile can come from erucic acid (so canola oil should have less of the stuff linked to heart problems). In other parts of the world though, these oil names are used interchangeably, and both can be found in oat milk. Meaning sometimes, you might be getting the healthier “canola” oil, and other times, you’ll be getting the less-healthy “rapeseed.”

Oatly claims to use only non-GMO canola oil, which is arguably better than traditional rapeseed oil. Unfortunately, whether either of these oils will have negative, long-term effects on your health is still up for debate.

If this science-y discussion of canola oil, rapeseed oil, and erucic acid (which are all very unpleasant words) is turning you off your oat milk habit for good, don’t fret—it’s possible to find plenty of oat milk labels with just oats and water (and sometimes salt, too). Like this one from Trader Joe’s—hallelujah!

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Is Oat Milk Allergen-Free?

If you have a tree nut allergy, then the last few years of nut milk has probably been a frustrating time for you. Since allergies are a huge nightmare to live with, we’re thrilled to report that oat milk isn’t associated with any of the major allergens. Those allergic to dairy or lactose are obviously in the clear. Oat Milk is safe for basically everyone, as allergic reactions to oats are rare. In the event of an allergic reaction, however, it is commonly because of a protein found in oats called avenin.

What about gluten, though? For those with celiac disease, oats do not typically contain gluten. But since other gluten products can occasionally contaminate oats if they are processed in the same factory, you’ll probably want to double check to make sure the oat milk carton is labeled as “gluten-free” or “no gluten.”

Where’s The Oat Milk Trend Heading? 

For the near future, the answer to that question is up.

Sales for traditional dairy products are declining, while alternative milk choices are on the uptick. Between 2015 and 2018, American consumers spent $4.13 billion less on milk, while the dairy-alternative beverage businesses steadily rose. In fact, at the beginning of 2019, their sales reached $1.7 billion. It will be interesting to see what happens because although Almond Milk is lower in calories, carbs, and fat, it looks like it may get left in Oat Milk’s dust.

Our fave, and in fact The Best Oat Milk for your casual, “in the home” Oat Milk– one that tastes great in a simple iced coffee with no sugar, no added oil, and which froths up nicely in coffee and matcha lattes– is Planet Oat Original Unsweetened. Most coffee shops use Oatly “barista” blend, or Califa Farms, both of which are SO creamy and SO delicious, we feel wildly suspicious about their health benefits, and instead, choose to view these treats like an ice cream cone.

Or, as we say to our kids, a sometimes food.

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

What Exactly Does Ingesting Collagen Do For Me?

collagen

There’s been a lot of hype around the benefits of ingesting collagen over the last year or so, which has led to a boom in the collagen supplement market. You can now find collagen in tablets and capsules and protein powders and chews and gummies. To name a few.

You’ve probably read articles claiming that collagen supplements are good for gut health. You’ve also probably read that collagen is the literal fountain of youth, gives women clearer skin, stronger hair, and nails, and alleviates joint pain. Who wouldn’t sign up for that? But with the shiny patina of collagen’s miracle benefits, you might feel that this all sounds too good to be true.

So, what’s real? Does this stuff really work? And should you be putting it in your body?

Long story short, recent studies have shown that collagen, a protein the body naturally produces and requires throughout life, may improve aging skin, increase skin elasticity, and hydration when taken orally over the long term.

Top 5 (Suggested) Benefits of Collagen Supplements:

  • May ease joint pain

  • May make skin look younger

  • May help build muscle and burn fat

  • May reduce cellulite (and this is the biggest MAY of all)

  • May strengthen digestive tract lining

I’m repeating “May” because, as of now, studies are limited, and most have only had short trial periods of 4 to 24 weeks. We still don’t have much in the way of longitudinal studies showing how ingesting collagen over years affects the body. Instead, we mostly have a lot of anecdotes from consumers sharing how they use collagen.

So what’s the big deal about collagen anyway?

Well, for starters, it’s a protein, and proteins are crucial to the overall healthy functioning of our cells. They carry out a slew of functions within each cell, such as bringing in nutrients, carrying out waste, and most importantly (for the purposes of this conversation)—building muscle and connective tissues.

That’s where collagen comes in. It creates fibers for muscle, cartilage, tendons, connective tissue, and digestive lining.

The problem with ingestible collagen is that most people believe that by adding it to their daily smoothies, they’ll immediately have great skin. As if collagen, when it enters the bloodstream, knows exactly where to go: “Kelly’s skin isn’t dewy today; I’m going there!’”

But that’s not how it works.

Ingesting collagen will impact more areas than just your skin. It’s a protein and will go where it is needed—skin, hair, bones, etc. Assuming it’s properly absorbed into the bloodstream at all.

When collagen gets broken down in the digestive system, only a minuscule amount actually makes it into our blood and is used by our cells. In other words, you’re just not going to get a big bang for your buck. And those powders are not cheap. So, dosage and absorption are issues to keep in mind when ingesting collagen.

Just like all supplements, collagen pills, powders, and chews are not regulated by the FDA, which means their purity and efficacy haven’t been fully guaranteed by the government. However, there are other organizations that provide third-party testing, quality control, and labeling.

Even studies with promising results, like one that was done on the efficacy of the collagen protein powder VERISOL (which demonstrated improved skin elasticity), have limited applications. Since the study was conducted on the skin of the forearm, not the face, drawing concrete conclusions on collagen’s effect on crow’s feet is a challenge.

To make matters more confusing, many skin care professionals believe that ingesting collagen doesn’t work at all.

Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross, who has a high-end line of skincare products, promotes topical treatments and injectables to encourage collagen production, arguing that these are superior to supplements.

“When you eat collagen,” Dr. Gross said recently in an Instagram post “it’s broken down by the acids in your stomach into what’s called amino acids.” Because collagen is a large protein molecule, once broken down, it just doesn’t work the same.

Dr. Gross recommends if you want more collagen in your skin, “use ingredients applied topically that stimulate your skin to make more of its own collagen.”

Of course, any doctor performing elective procedures probably has their own agenda when it comes to disbelieving ingestible collagen; if collagen supplements really work, then who needs Botox?

But who can say? What we know for sure is that, so far, there have been few trials studying the effects of ingestible collagen.

So, are there proven and safe ways to ingest collagen?

If you’re concerned about collagen loss because of aging and want safe ways to get more of it in your diet, then ingesting collagen through the foods you eat is a healthy alternative to non-regulated collagen supplements.

Here’s a quick run-down of effective, healthy ways to promote collagen production.

Bone Broth

1. BONE BROTH                                                                                                                               This seems to be the winner among nutrition experts. According to L.A.-based fitness nutrition specialist and healthy chef, Marcia Whitfield, since there is so little evidence on collagen, “I wouldn’t waste my money. If people are looking for more protein, which is collagen, I’d suggest making homemade bone broth from chicken, beef, and turkey bones.” She’s not alone in this perspective.

2. AVOID TOO MUCH SUN EXPOSURE AND SMOKING                                                             Just doing these two things alone will help your skin tremendously. Because if you take collagen supplements and smoke a pack a day or love to sunbathe, you will see very little improvement.

 

Balanced Diet

3. EAT A BALANCED DIET

Unsurprisingly, people who respond best to collagen supplements were also the people who had the least amount of protein in their diets. So eat a healthy balance of animal protein, eggs, and dairy, and for the vegans—load up on legumes and green leafy vegetables.

 

Exercise

4. EXERCISE

To get (or keep) those strong muscles of yours, get a moderate amount of exercise with a bit of resistance training thrown in there and you will be well on your way to a stronger you.

 

Like so many trends that come and go, ingestible collagen is new and hot. Although preliminary results look promising, it’s still too soon to claim definitively that the hype is real. So before you hand over that credit card, think about if you really need it.

Chances are, if you just up your intake of healthy proteins and take a few precautions, you’ll see the same benefits that ingesting collagen supplements may or may not give you.

And for those of you who have been ordering bone marrow and saying it was for your skin, feel free to finally admit you just love bone marrow (and if your skin looks radiant afterward, all the better).

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

4 Super Easy Stretches To Help With Your COVID-19-Related Stress and Anxiety

(Article first published on The Candidly.)

Being cooped up in the house with few outlets for our stress and anxiety has us all on edge. We’re constantly learning how to balance productively working from home with educating our children with maintaining our relationships. It’s a lot. And with gyms and yoga studios closed because of the quarantine, our fitness routines have been totally thrown off schedule.

Add in our constantly terrifying news cycle, and you’ve got a recipe for frazzled nerves, stiff necks and shoulders, and tension headaches. Now, more than ever, managing stress is necessary to keep our immune systems functioning properly.

And while exercise, taking a walk, and limiting your news intake are just a few things you can do to stay sane right now, here’s another: stretch.

Yes, really.

Stretching might seem like a simple, semi-useless task we only ever seriously consider before or after working out. But stretching can do more than just prevent an exercise-induced muscle pull. It can actually be soothing. Think of that breath you take when coming out of a deep stretch—doesn’t it kind of feel like the first good breath you’ve taken in years (or months? weeks? How long has this thing been going on for now? Is time just an endless abyss?).

So here are four super easy stretches you can do right now, no equipment needed. You don’t even have to change out of your pajamas.

1. Seated, Forward Extension

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This stretch can be done seated with legs crossed or kneeling while sitting on your heels (if sitting cross-legged is uncomfortable). Once seated comfortably, take a deep breath in as you place your hands on the floor in front of you and slowly “walk” your fingertips away from your body as far as you can.

Not everyone can go all the way down to the floor, as in the photo, and that’s fine. Find your limit and stop there, taking long deep breaths. Let your head drop, relaxing your neck. After a few breaths, see if you can walk your fingertips a little further. Grip the floor with your fingers and feel the stretch down the sides of arms and the length of your back down to your hips.

Now, remaining low to the ground, walk your fingers to the left, leaning your torso to your left side. Go as far as you can to the left, then stop and breathe long and deep. Repeat on the other side.

Finally, with your torso still low, walk your hands back to the center and then slowly walk them back towards your body until you are again sitting upright. Take a deep breath. Exhale.

2. Seated, Spinal Twist

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To transition from sitting cross-legged or kneeling, stretch your legs out in front of you then bend your right leg in a sort of half-butterfly stretch, so that the outside of your leg rests on the ground, your knee is pointed outwards, and your foot is near the left inner thigh. Then bend your left leg so that the knee is pointing up at the ceiling and the bottom of the foot is flat on the floor. Scoot your right leg inwards, so that your right foot (still resting on the floor) is underneath the left knee, and then lift your left foot off the floor, take hold of the ankle, and bring your left foot to rest just outside of your right thigh. I know—that sounded incredibly complicated, but just try to mimic the leg placement in the photo above, if that’s easier.

Take a deep breath in and extend both arms up overhead. Exhale as you turn your torso to the left, bringing your right arm to rest in the space between your left knee and chest. You can bend the elbow (as pictured) or keep the arm straight.

Twist your torso completely and bring your left hand to the floor behind you. Look over your shoulder as far as is comfortable for your eyes and hold the posture. With each exhale, see if you can twist just a bit further.

To come out of the twist, slowly bring your head around first, then unwind the rest of your body. Shake out your legs and transition to the other side.

3. Seated, 1 Leg-Extended, Side Stretch

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Sit with your legs extended in front of you then open them as wide as is comfortable. When you feel a stretch in the groin, stop. Take a bend in your right knee and bring your foot to the inside of your left thigh.

Stretch both arms up overhead as you inhale, then exhale and bend at your hip toward your left leg. Stretch the left arm as far as it can go. If you can grab your toes, great. If not, no problem. Just let your hand rest on your shin. Stretch your right arm up and over your head as far as you can, extending your fingers toward your left foot until you feel the stretch along the side of your body down to your hip.

If you want to deepen the stretch, extend all the way over until you can grab your toes with your right hand. Believe me, it can be done. And if it doesn’t happen today, know that in time, with practice, your flexibility can increase and it can happen.

4. Forward-Fold

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This has to be the most beautiful and unsung hero of stretches. Simply stand up with your feet parallel to each other, hip-width apart, or with big toes touching, heels slightly apart, extend the arms overhead, take a deep breath in, and exhale as you bend forward at the hips, letting your torso come down and allowing your head to hang toward the floor. Breathe long deep breaths and hang out like a rag-doll. Alternatively, you can bend your arms and grab hold of opposite elbows and gently sway from side-to-side.

To experience different intensities of the stretch, gently shift your weight from your heels to the balls of your feet and back again. What I love about this stretch is how gravity helps you and the longer you stay in it the further down you can bend with the eventuality being that your forehead can touch your knees.

For those of you that just muttered ‘Yeah right,’ under your breath, I understand. Some of us have incredibly tight hamstrings that will forbid us from ever reaching the floor. Not a problem. You still get the benefit of the stretch just by allowing your body to hang and extending your fingers towards your toes. If you’d like to feel greater support during the stretch, do it while standing with your back to a wall and let the wall support you.

When you’re ready to come out of the stretch, do it slowly, slowly, slowly, rising up one vertebra at a time, with your head coming up last. If you rise too quickly, you’re likely to get a headrush and feel dizzy. Take a deep breath and feel the difference in your body.

Really savor each stretch. Take as much time as you can; I recommend staying in each stretch for a minimum of three breaths, which is what really works wonders on your stress and anxiety levels.  You’ll feel renewed and refreshed afterward. And maybe you’ll even feel motivated enough to change out of your pajamas.

But, no pressure.

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Tamara Jefferies MA, is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

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Be Well!