New Blog!!!

Hi all!!

This will be brief, I just wanted to let everyone know I’ve officially moved over to my new blog through Texas A&M University!

I can’t wait to start this new part of my journey and to continue to share it with all of you! Thank you so much for all of your ongoing support and encouragement!

Not an Ending, Just an Intermission

Hi all, this is a little post to let everyone know that since I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this month, I will have to move off of this blog site very soon. It’s scary and weird, and I don’t totally understand what it means to have a degree or be considered an “alum” yet, but I guess we’ll get there!

Photo by Carolyn Taluja Photography

Luckily, I’ll be continuing my education (that’s right, there will still be lots of dorky science stuff behind all the blog posts!) at Texas A&M University in the fall! So I’ll be back, up and running, at a new blog site starting in August. I’ll keep with a similar theme, so since I don’t have a link for everyone yet, for now I’m going to say googling the words “tamu”, “natural health and beauty” or “flower child” are going to be the best bets for finding the new blog!

Maybe my name would work too? Serina Taluja? I’ll also probably post the new link on my LinkedIn profile, so if you need to definitely hit up my LinkedIn page to catch that new link!

Photo by me 🙂
Check out these cute Alaskan flowers! Maybe I’ll go back to Alaska to figure all this stuff out?? We’ll see!

Thank you so much, everyone, for listening to my ramblings, and for enjoying the health and wellness benefits of a more natural lifestyle with me. It’s so wonderful to be able to build a community through writing about something important to you, because that community ends up being full of people with priorities in line with yours. The topics become more in depth, the conversations more meaningful. I’m so lucky that I had the opportunity to write this blog, and that I’m going to keep having that opportunity in the fall!

So while I figure out what it means to have my bachelors degree (and maybe what it means to be a graduate student! AH!), get ready for a newer and even better version of this blog, coming from one of the warmer regions of the US!

See you all soon, after my little school-intermission!

Time to Try Turmeric

One of the things I seriously admire about my boyfriend is that he’s a vegetarian. It’s a lifestyle that contributes so much to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and encourages fair treatment for animals around the world. I wish I could commit to it, but as a border-line anemic it’s hard to keep my iron levels up without consuming a little bit of meat here and there, so instead I just try to make the best and most nutrient-packed vegetarian foods for my boyfriend that I possibly can!

Searching for ways to keep nutrient and protein levels up in the diet of a vegetarian can be really tricky, but far from impossible as long as you do your research! Just last week, I convinced my boyfriend (his name is Aaron) to try Indian food for the first time since he was really little. He loved it, and one of the things I ordered for him was aloo gobi, which is a dish made with cauliflower and potatoes, and the key to it’s interesting color and amazing taste is…turmeric!

Turmeric has so many fantastic health benefits that I just had to write about it. It’s also used so widely in international cuisines and especially vegetarian dishes, it’s a great little spice to know about. So, here are some popular ways people enjoy turmeric and the health benefits that come along with them!

Turmeric in Curry

In curries, turmeric produces the yellow color you see, and this yellow color within the turmeric comes from a compound called curcumin. Curcumin is great for a whole long list of reasons, just like turmeric. For one thing, it is a very strong antioxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. And while turmeric is only around 3% curcumin by weight, you can increase your bodies absorption of the compound by adding black pepper to your curry (which contains peperine, which encourages absorption of curcumin but the body) or eating some high-fat foods with your curry (since curcumin is fat-soluble).

And, if anyone was wondering about making that Indian dish that Aaron liked at home, check out this fantastic aloo gobi recipe and get your daily dose of turmeric in with dinner!

Turmeric Milk

This is a great alternative to get your turmeric fix if you’re not a curry fan. And, if you’re sensitive to spicy food, this is also perfect because the milk takes all the usual kick right out of the turmeric. This tonic is great because it can be consumed pretty much anytime you feel that you need a little immunity boost. It’s especially good for children in school or for anyone who uses public spaces often and interacts with a lot of people, and around flu season it’s been known to keep germs at bay. Most people drink it right when they wake up or right before they go to bed!

Turmeric milk is also a pretty good detoxifying agent of basically every part of your body! It can help regulate your digestive track, clean out your liver and even clear up breakouts, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric Tea

Tea form of turmeric is great for pain relief, since warm liquids make you feel emotionally better (or at least, they make ME feel better!) and turmeric can make your body feel better! This tea is often used by arthritis patients to help manage their symptoms, and by women with very painful period cramps to manage their discomfort.

Turmeric tea also delivers all the other benefits of turmeric to the body quickly, like it’s anti-heart-disease properties and it’s cancer-fighting abilities! And it can be made with a wide variety of combined ingredients depending on the benefits you’re seeking or the taste you’re craving!

Medicinal Mushroom Magic

During this coming summer (which is finally starting! Hooray!) I’ll be working at the University of Illinois Herbarium, which is super exciting for a multitude of reasons. And normally, it wouldn’t make sense for a microbiologist to end up working at a herbarium, which is basically a “library” of plant specimens. But, lucky for me, I have a *little* bit of previous experience in herbariums, AND I got to interview the director for a story I wrote for the Daily Illini.

The director, Dr. Andy Miller, is a mycologist. Mycology is the study of mushrooms, and an incredibly cool and small field. It’s actually pretty crazy: for every type of plant in the world, there are probably about 30 botanists. That’s a lot of botanists! For every single mycologist in the world, there’s probably around 300 species of mushrooms. That’s such a wild distribution!

I think this discrepancy lies in a lack of knowledge about just how neat and important mushrooms are- specifically Cordyceps, which make up one of the the largest subdivisions of true fungi. These have been used by humans for a variety of medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and here I’ve detailed a few neat things that mushrooms can do for you!

Cordyceps- In Introduction

For starters, what the heck even is a Cordycep? It’s going to sound weird, but a Cordycep tends to be a type of fungus that infects insect larvae and eventually kills them. It sounds gross, but this little parasite can do so many cool things that I almost forgot that it starts its life by infecting a bug!

For one thing, Cordyceps have been found to increase peoples’ endurance physically. These types of mushrooms can be consumed to increase your ability to go hard at the gym by skyrocketing the amount of ATP (energy) getting delivered to your muscles.

They have also been found to do lots of other healthy things, like stop tumor progression, manage diabetes, and help with heart health.

Some Cordyceps have also been found to help with anti-aging efforts. In the field of anti-aging, lots of the focus has recently been shifted to helping with the “symptoms” of getting older, things like joint pain and fatigue, rather than actually halting the aging process or not showing surface-level signs of age. In this new arena, these mushrooms are stars! They help with things like boosting joint strength, keeping fatigue at bay and even amping up peoples’ sex drives. They also contain tons of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which help neutralize free radicals and keep diseases from slowing us down as we get older.

Now here are a few of the miracle-mushrooms within the Cordyceps domain!

Cordyceps sinensis

The discovery of this fungus being medicinally relevant started with farmers noticing that sheep and goats that fed in fields where this mushroom grew became very strong and stout in stature. This observation paved the way for studying the benefits of this fungus for people, which are quite numerous.

Cordyceps sinensis has been reported to help people with diabetes management, respiratory difficulties like bronchitis and asthma, and even some types of cancer treatment. This mushroom is also reported to be an aphrodisiac, and helps with things like erectile dysfunction. In an interesting recent study, mice were given this mushroom for 3 weeks and then compared to a group given a placebo type treatment, and the mushroom-fed mice were able to swim significantly longer than the mice given the placebo by the end of the three week period! So if you’re looking for an extra way to boost your strength and endurance, look no further than this mushroom (and check out Gaia Herbs‘ Mushroom + Herbs supplement for this exact same thing!).

Cordyceps militaris

This fungus is super pretty looking, with adorable white and orange fruiting bodies that you can see growing on leaves and branches. It has many components that are active players in key metabolic pathways in the human body, which has lead to lots of claims that this mushroom is anywhere from anti-cancer to anti-HIV to anti-aging!

Interestingly enough, that first claim has been studied pretty extensively in this mushroom and found to be quite accurate. Not only does Cordyceps militaris have the ability to stop cells from proliferating extensively (which is what causes tumors to grow so fast!), it also can stop cells from moving to parts of the body they shouldn’t be, which is known as cancer metastasis! Proliferation and metastasis are two of the scarier parts of cancer progression, so stopping both of these is a pretty big deal for this little mushroom and for advancing holistic medicines’ impact on cancer.


Breathing Bliss

Air Quality Awareness Week falls on the last week of April this year, which is coming up starting on the 29th!

In honor of thinking actively about the air we breathe, I wanted to talk a little about how to keep the air you’re exposed to inside your home nice and clean without having to do too much work AND adding a little more ambiance to your home!

Glowing Rocks? Yes please!

Himalayan salt lamps are so cool for so many reasons, and many of these reasons involve cleaning and purifying the air around us, especially around bedtime! For starters, salt attracts water molecules from out of the air in your house. This may at first sound startling, I think my skin started drying out as I typed that sentence! However, I love my salt lamp because along with the water molecules, it absorbs the things attached these molecules, like pollen, dust, and mold! Which is wonderful, especially for this beautiful springy time of year full of allergens like those polluting the air in our homes and making us sneeze like crazy!

Salt lamps also release negative ions into the air, which are often found in natural settings like forests or near running water. Negative ions, despite the connotation of their name, actually do a lot of really positive things for our bodies. For instance, they help boost our metabolism and our immune systems, purify our blood, and neutralize free radicals. Having more of these in the air you breathe without a doubt is doing your body a favor!

Lastly, salt lamps are especially important before bed, air quality aside. They emit orange light (go for the pink Himalayan salt lamps if you can, because while the white ones may look cool, you loose out on this final benefit!), and this helps encourage your body to follow your natural circadian rhythm. Sunset also emits a large amount of orange light, as opposed to white and blue light during the daytime hours. This orange light, therefore, is a natural signal to your body that it is time to go to sleep!

Plants? ALWAYS!

Back in 1989, NASA actually did a study about indoor plants that remove pollutants from the air, and they came up with a lot of really cool results. The short version of this research is: these plants are not only easy to take care of, but they have been proven to clean up the air around you and make breathing indoors more healthy and clean!

The top of NASA’s indoor plants list is the garden mum. This cute little plant can be grown indoors through it’s blooming season and then transplanted outside. They are very easy to take care of, and remove things like benzene, ammonia, and formaldehyde from the air!

Next in line is the spider plant. This plant is very forgiving if you’re a forgetful plant owner (I’ve had mine for months now and I’ve taken week long vacations and totally forgotten about it! Came back, it was totally fine!). It likes indirect sunlight indoors, and sends out these cute little shoots when it wants to expand out of it’s container! You can repot these shoots and end up with TONS of little spider plants. It removes formaldehyde and xylene from the air.

If you want to get really crazy with using plants as air purifiers, you can plant then in the Plant Air Purifier planter to get even stronger cleaning power! This planter comes with special growing media that not only supports the plant growing inside of it, but filters the air that it is exposed to! This planter is also great for forgetful plant owners: it can store enough water for a plant for a whole week!

Plant-Based Rocks? Of course!

Bamboo charcoal was something I didn’t even know existed until very recently, but I MIGHT be obsessed with! It’s been used for centuries for filtration and medicinal purposes across Asia, and it just making it’s debut as an air purifier in the Western world.

A perk to using bamboo charcoal to purify your indoor air is that it is a natural deodorizer, without adding an over-sweet scent to the air instead. This is especially good for smaller spaces, like mudrooms or cars, so that these spaces don’t get overwhelmed by good or bad scents!

And, these fun black rocks get their air-deodorizing powers by cleaning it and getting rid of the things creating those bad smells, such as ammonia, carbonic oxide, and other smog components.

Keeping Your Furry Friends Feeling Fresh

Pets are one of those wonderful natural healers. They can fix a bad day or a severe mood swing, and are even beginning to be brought around to campuses and businesses nationwide as volunteer therapy animals for the people who go to school/work in these sometimes stressful environments.

While pets are healers themselves, it’s important that if you’re thinking of getting one yourself that you know how to take care of your new friend. Because while you may depend on them as a source of love, joy, and companionship, they depend on you to take care of them and make sure they are healthy!

So, here are some things to think about to incorporate a new pet into your home, and keep their health and beauty routines as natural as your own!

Natural Grooming

We like to be beautiful, and I feel like for our animal companions the same thing must be at least a little true! Our furry friends like dogs and cats require things like natural shampoos and conditioners that keep their fur soft and smooth without drying out their skin. Brands like Earthbath make it a priority that their ingredients are good for both our pets and us to be exposed to during bath time, and still leave them smelling fresh and clean!

For our more reptilian friends, like turtles and lizards, little to no grooming is usually required! However, it is important to keep their tanks clean, especially if it is around molting season. And, if you’re feeling like pampering your reptilian companion, a simple “bath” with lukewarm water and a toothbrush for light scrubbing is sure to do the trick!

Natural Feeding

Giving our pets both what they want in a diet and what they need in a diet is very important, and this can be both challenging and exciting to tackle for pet owners. For cats, this involves a lot of protein and not a lot of things like grain meal and corn gluten, which are present in a surprising number of cat foods! Freshpet makes all natural cat food that doesn’t break the bank and keeps friendly felines well fed!

Dogs need lots of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals, and similar to cats they should avoid gluten-rich foods as much as possible. Snakes typically consume their prey, which are usually mice, whole, and it doesn’t get much more natural than that I suppose! Other reptiles like turtles like to be fed dark leafy greens, so things like kale and spinach are easy ones to keep these little guys going strong. You have the option to get food pellets to additionally nourish reptiles like lizards and turtles, but be sure that these pellets contain things mostly along the lines of herbs and leafy plants.

Natural Aging

Just like people, animals age, and the effects of getting older can hit our animal friends pretty hard if we’re not keeping up with a little extra care for them everyday.

Some common issues for animals as they age can be vision loss, limited liver function, and diabetes development. The vision loss sounds like the scariest, but actually many animals can adjust pretty quickly to life with limited or no vision. Since many pets are very in-tune with their owners’ emotions, the best thing you can do for your pet if they experience vision loss is stay calm and do your best to maintain an upbeat attitude! Some physical things to do to help prevent vision loss include treating eye infections promptly and keeping a close eye on the clarity of your animals’ eyes.

Reduced liver function is another common problem for aging pets, but is often easily fixed through the use of supplements like those made by Pet Wellbeing or PetAlive. The key here is catching the symptoms early! In dogs, this can be things like a suddenly limited appetite, vomiting and jaundice in the eyes, nose and ears.

Finally, the best thing to do about those tricky hip problems in large dogs, or arthritis in cats, or really any bone issue is make the house or apartment you live in more safe for your pet. Things like Natural Area Rugs animal stair treads can help make one of the biggest obstacles in a home for a bone-challenged animal (the stairs) a little less daunting or unsafe!

Pesky PMS (and how to deal with it!!!)

If you’re anything like me, around a certain time of the month, I just don’t feel like myself. Aches and pains don’t begin to cover how painful, annoying and emotional PMS can be, and this is true for a lot of women (to a point that they’ve given painful period cramps their own name- dysmenorrhea!).

The women in my family are no strangers to fainting from period pains, or from complete mental breakdowns over something spilled-milk-esque (or even, literally, spilled milk!), and often this tumultuous time leaves me feeling very helpless. I had tried turning to the health center at my school, only to be pointed to birth control pills that landed me in a heap of anxiety and depression immediately following my sophomore year of college.

While it’s fantastic that birth control pills and extreme hormone controls work wonders for some women, I quickly learned that I had to turn to some more natural methods for dealing with my periods. Oddly enough, it was that journey to find natural remedies to help me feel better that started me on my all-natural health and beauty routines to begin with!

So, here are my words of wisdom on the issue that started all this: PMS.

Hormonal Aids

While I found that hard-core birth control pills were too much for my system, hormone regulators and aids can be very helpful when dealing with period symptoms. They can not only relieve pain, they can help curb mood swings and make bleeding much lighter overall.

There are also lots of great options for supplements you can take that specifically work to regulate hormones during that-time-of-the-month to help you feel more balanced and relaxed. Brands like Nutramedix and New Chapter both have lots of natural hormone balance supplements that can make PMS symptoms far more tolerable, and without changing up your lifestyle or eating habits for an entire week every month.

Movement Aids

I’m sure you’ve read it as many times as I have: exercising makes your period symptoms more tolerable. This is totally true, however it can be very challenging to remind yourself of this when you’re in the middle of dealing with the physical and emotional roller coaster that is PMS. So, if you also find it hard to motivate yourself to get to the gym during this time, don’t worry, you have options!

Stretching is one that I find seriously helps me relieve tension and relax my muscles, and not only while I’m PMS-ing. Stretching a little every morning, but especially during your period, can help relax your body and stop the cramps from coming on so strong so quickly.

Another interesting method for physically relieving period symptoms, I’ve found, is rubbing your abdomen in a clockwise direction, right over where the cramps usually kick in. This method is often used to relieve abdominal pain that comes from the stomach and not the uterus, however it can help reduce bloating, which in my opinion is always a plus! This little trick along with a heating pad on your back is truly an unstoppable combination, and can make you feel much more ready to take on the day in the midst of PMS.

Food and Drink Aids

Finally, if there are a few things you can work in amongst the salty-foods and chocolate cravings, I would recommend raspberry leaf tea and almonds. And as a side note before we get into that, let yourself indulge in the cravings! Dark chocolate is something that has actually been found to help ease period pains, and the salty foods can help make up for the amount of iron you’re loosing during blood loss while you’re on your period. Our bodies crave things for a reason, so don’t be afraid to listen to your body when it lets you know what it needs.

Alright back to helpful foods. Raspberry tea has been my true savior in my PMS/period pains journey, and Traditional Medicinals actually makes a raspberry leaf tea called Healthy Cycle, which makes it super easy to identify at the grocery store. Red raspberry leaf tea is such a life saver because it actually boosts your immune system and slows down blood flow, which can make your periods feel lighter and ease cramps at the same time!

Almonds are another food I turn to frequently for period relief. They are packed with magnesium, which can help regulate serotonin receptors and help lift your mood! Plus they can satisfy that need for salt that tends to accompany PMS. Also… you can cover them in chocolate. And I’m going to end my article at that! 🙂

Pretty Plants PLEASE!

One of my favorite past-times, and something I’m looking forward to continue after I graduate, is indoor gardening. As a student, there’s too much living situation and time-variability on a week to week or year to year basis to sustain an outdoor garden, so for now indoor gardening is where I find my peace.

There are countless benefits to keeping plants around your house or having an indoor garden. A little extra greenery present in our lives has been shown to help improve our ability to focus, relieve our stress, and minimize our attentional fatigue. Attentional fatigue comes from things that require us to actively focus on it, like a lecture or a meeting, rather than something we mindlessly pay attention to, like leaves rustling in the wind or a beetle crawling on the ground.

On top of the benefits of actually having plants in your home, there are lots of plants that can work seamlessly into your beauty routines! Between hair, face, and eyelash treatments based on plants that you can grow at home, having a home garden can actually provide you with a world of possibilities for taking care of yourself and being botanically-based BEAUTIFUL!

Succulent Plant for Succulent Lashes

One of my favorite members of my garden is my aloe vera plant. Amongst many other succulent and cactus varieties, aloe vera grows very quickly and can deal with a limited amount of light, which is especially great if you love the look of succulents and cacti but lack the South-facing, light-drenched window it tends to take to keep them alive. My aloe vera plant is at a West-facing window and has even survived a cold Illinois winter, so they are also pretty hardy plants! They also only need to be watered about once every week or two, which makes them very low maintenance!

Aloe vera is super useful beauty-wise for growing stronger, longer eyelashes. Aloe vera gel contains vitamin E, which helps promote strong hair growth. The gel from this cute plant also helps moisturize your eyelashes, and using it regularly can yield some serious results! Plus, it’s super easy to apply right before bed using a clean mascara brush or just your fingers.

Fresh Mint for a Fresh Facial 

There are a lot of herbs out there that work great for all-natural, DIY facials, my favorite being mint! Mint is a cool plant to have because it makes the air smell really fresh on top of being easily transplanted. If at any point you wanted to move a small mint plant into either a larger container or a garden bed, get ready for it to grow like crazy! They’re also very easy to take care of, since they grow quickly as long as they have adequate sunlight (8-10 hours/ day for most varieties) and get watered any time the soil starts to feel dry (and make sure, again, that this watering is done over the sink, and that it drains all the way out the bottom of the container before you put it back down!).

Mint is great for your skin because it contains a lot of vitamin A, which can help reduce oil production and strengthen your skin tissue. It also naturally contains salicylic acid, something you’ll find advertised in a lot of acne and breakout treatments. Salicylic acid is an exfoliate that is both gentle and effective at clearing pores and preventing future breakouts. This also means, however, that this type of facial has the potential to seriously dry out your skin. Mixing mint leaves with something like plain yogurt or honey helps keep the balance between having clear, exfoliated skin and hydrated, supple skin!

AvocaDO Your Hair a Favor

Avocado plants are something that have been a sort of dream for me since I was a kid, especially since I stubbornly want to be able to successfully germinate my own plant. It’s amazing how simple it is to do, I just haven’t found the time yet to try it! Luckily, it’s easy stuff: you clean the pit, stick about three toothpicks in it around the sides (like spokes on a wheel), then sit this little pit contraption on top of a glass of water filled almost to the brim. As long as you keep the water level up, you should have a cute avocado plant in no time!

Sadly, while these plants are absolutely adorable, they won’t bear fruit. The fruit producing plants are better brought at a larger nursery, already germinated and about a foot tall. These can grow to about shrub-size, so they’re easy to keep on the floor by a sunny window in a fairly large pot! And, once your plant starts producing fruit and you can harvest it, avocados can be made into fantastic hair masks that leave your hair feeling silky and smooth. Combined with banana, egg and apple cider vinegar, avocado masks leave damaged hair healthier and shinier than ever before, making waiting for harvesting time from the avocado plant well worth the wait.

Fantastic Florals

It’s FINALLY (nearly officially) spring, and that means things are starting to bloom! I worked as a florist in high school, so spring was my favorite time of year. We got in such a diverse selection of flowers from all over the world, and it always blew my mind what a wide variety of looks, smells, and energies each flower brought to our shop around this time of the year.

I could go on for hours about how wonderful flowers are. They’ve been shown to improve mental health and they look and smell great! In addition, flowers in a variety of forms provide people with health and beauty benefits outside of simply warming our hearts and bringing smiles to our faces.

Flowers are for Smelling

Whether your flowers are living, dried, or have been extracted in essential oils form, they are without a doubt incredible to smell. And the benefits of smelling flowers doesn’t stop at being delightful, as they can also be very good for things like sleeping, relieving anxiety, and some even have a few anti-inflammatory properties!

Lavender is a very popular floral scent to keep handy at home. It can be used topically for things like minor burns and bug bites, but it also has powerful calming abilities that allow it to ease anxiety and insomnia and promote restful sleep. (Let’s not forget, it’s still National Sleep Awareness Month!).

Geranium is another great flower to use in essential oil form, especially in wound treatment. This amazing floral can not only inhibit bacteria growth, it can also help heal scar tissue. By the same token, this oil can be used as a natural deodorant. Lastly, some findings have indicated that geranium essential oil has the potential to help mentally uplift people suffering from depression and anger issues, easing their levels of mental strain.

Many types of floral smells have corresponding health benefits, and can be even more powerful when used in combinations. This can be achieved by creating dynamic floral arrangements for your home, or by creating essential oil mixes that let you reap the most olfactory benefits as you possibly can! And, Plant Therapy makes a variety of floral and non-floral essential oils, and even a few mixes to help enhance the powers of many of these fantastic florals!

Flowers are for Eating

There are a surprising number of flowers that you can eat (I found a list of 60, which is just crazy!). They also provide a plethora of health benefits, depending on how you use them in food and what type of flower you choose to use!

For example, hibiscus flowers are often used in tea. Hibiscus tea has been used (sometimes combined with mint tea for a little flavor) for many years as a digestive aid, as well as to help lower cholesterol levels and potentially blood pressure levels too!

Violets are another striking flower that can be eaten and provide people with lots of interesting benefits. Violets are used as remedies for coughs and sore throats due to their surface-soothing abilities. Because of these same abilities, violets can also be used as topical treatment for things like eczema and acne.

Flowers are for Admiring

Like I mentioned before, flowers have actually been scientifically proven to make a positive impact on peoples’ behaviors and moods. Just having them around the house (again, even if they are dried or silks!) can seriously improve the outlook your household has on the world. And, just to further my point (and because it was fun for me), here are some of my favorite flowers to try arranging in your home or growing in your garden this spring!





Stargazer Lilies

Sweet, Sweet Sleep!

Wow it feels like a hundred years since I’ve written anything here! It’s been a wild month of sinus infections, graduate school acceptances (I’ll be moving to College Station, TX to pursue a Ph. D. in genetics in the fall! Woot woot!), midterms, new loves and lots lots more! But I’m happy to finally be back to writing.

With all the excitement, however, I haven’t yet gotten a chance to stop and celebrate that it is National Sleep Awareness Month! How wonderful is that?

Often we take our sleep for granted, or we simply don’t prioritize it enough for the wonders it works for our bodies. Sleeping has actually been found to be a key component in things like mood swings, dietary habits and weight loss! It does all that on top of helping rebuild our muscles after long days of working and thinking hard, yet we often say things like “I’ll just get a few hours tonight and I’ll be fine”, or “I need to be up all night just to get this done”, or the all-time-college-favorite “Whatever, I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”.

I’m guilty of pretty much all of these, but in honor of this glorious month I’ve decided to try and seriously prioritize my sleep. Hopefully, this emphasis on taking care of myself and nurturing my bodies natural repair system will help me better get through the tough stuff and celebrate the fun stuff! And in case any of you want to embark on this epic sleep journey with me, here are some things I’ll be focused on this National Sleep Awareness Month!

A Dreamy Nights Sleep

I’m a firm believer that dreams mean something, and I find that the better I sleep, the more I dream, and the more I dream, the more soundly I sleep. It’s a nice little positive-feedback-loop that keeps my subconscious light and my body well-rested!

I tend to have very vivid dreams, and while I know this isn’t the case for everyone, it’s still very important to acknowledge dreams when you have them. While there is no direct scientific link to sleep quality and dreams, it has been noted that since dreams reflect reality, often good dreams are a product of a good day. Good days tend to follow good rest, thus creating a similar positive feedback loop that I talked about earlier.

I’m focused on this because of those vivid dreams I have. I think writing them down is a great way to keep your mind both sharp and at-ease, by allowing you to express what goes on in your brain while you sleep without having to carry around the thoughts of where your mind was wandering to at night for a whole day!

I’m focusing on this by keeping a dream journal. If you’re interested in dream journaling and learning more about what dreams mean, Papyrus makes lots of really cute, bedside-table-sized journals and is great for reading all about different dream symbols and what they might mean for you!

A Satisfactory Nights Sleep

Sleep satisfaction is exactly what it sounds like: how you felt about your night of sleep. While sleep quantity is about how many hours you slept and sleep quality is about the condition of the sleep you got, this aspect of sleep is more about how it made you feel.

I want to focus on the way I feel about my sleep because this can make a big impact on your mood throughout the day. Feeling well-rested is just as good as being well-rested in many cases. Even if you only got a few hours of sleep, if you wake up feeling revitalized and ready to take on the day, you’re in a better position than someone who slept double the hours but wakes up still feeling tired!

I also want to focus on this because, especially on the weekends, I’m guilty of sleeping for many hours yet still waking up and feeling exhausted. I’m trying to listen to my body and rather than simply trying to stay in bed for as long as I possibly can, try to understand when my body feels ready for the day and I can get up (whether that’s at 7am or 11am), or when my body really does need that extra 5 minutes (or hour….or two!).

If you’ve ever experienced unsatisfactory sleep, some great ways to try to combat this are sleep-satisfactory supplements, such as Kavinace sleep support products, or trying out a sleep-cycle app like Sleep Cycle to wake you up at hours that are likely best of your body!

A Quality Nights Sleep

Finally, I’m trying to focus on getting quality sleep. While ensuring a quantity of sleep per night is not always realistic when things like work and school are so variable, quality is something a little more in my control that I’m hoping willing turn help with my other two focuses (previously discussed!).

Quality sleep encompasses a lot of factors, such as time spent in bed versus time sleeping, and the number of times you wake up during the night. I’m trying to increase my quality of sleep by only sleeping in my bed (rather than doing homework on my bed or scrolling through Instagram thinking about going to bed on my bed, and things like that!).

Other things that can improve sleep quality are things like adrenal sleep supplements (like those available through Gaia Herbs), or avoiding setting multiple alarms in the morning so that you only wake up once.

If you’ve already got good sleep in the bag, I’m proud of you. It’s no small feat to be aware of your sleep schedule, and to be able to acknowledge when you’re getting good sleep. Hopefully by the end of this month I (and everyone on a sleep-venture with me!) will be caught up to all of you good-sleepers.

Until then, sweet dreams!

p.s.- there just wasn’t enough room here to talk about all the cool things the National Sleep Foundation has on their website, so definitely go check it out to read more about the wonders of sleep!