December 2018 Edition
According to Make A Difference Day Survey (ICM Research 2004), 63% of 25 to 34-year-olds say volunteering helps them feel less stressed and half of people (48%) who have volunteered for more than two years say volunteering makes them less depressed.
Mindful Gift Giving: Tips for the Holiday Season
For many of us, gift giving is the biggest stress of the holiday season – from finding time to shop, to selecting the right gift, to getting the best price. We struggle emotionally knowing gifts often hold symbolic meaning for the recipient; yet, not having other ideas, we go to our default mode of shopping big box retailers for the “latest and greatest.” We do this despite the fact that these products tend to become outdated or lose their appeal within days.
This year, try your hand at mindful gift-giving: it can ease your stress, bring you greater joy, often costs less, and allows you to honor friends and family with gifts that are thoughtful and personal. It’s a way to say, “I thought of you” rather than “I shopped for you.” Here’s how it works:
- Sit with a pad and paper (put the devices away) and make a list of the people you’re giving to this year. Leave space between each name for notes.
- Jot down what you know about the person: their likes, their hobbies, their hopes, dreams and passions. What are their pet peeves? How do they spend their time at work, at play? Do they volunteer; what causes are important to them? Do they have an unmet need that you’ve observed?
- Let your mind wander for a bit, exploring ideas related to what you know about the person. Imagine gifts that help solve a problem, support a hobby, enhance a sense of community. For those that require a purchase, set a price range within your means. You don’t have to buy gifts to fulfill big dreams, but it’s likely you can find or make something that holds meaning for the recipient.
Before you participate in the Big Box Rush, consider some of these ways for meaningful gift-giving:
The Gift of Presence. Do you know an overworked single parent? Make your gift a double: a gift card to a spa or salon while you watch the kids. A lonely friend or neighbor? Make up a gift certificate for time together, your treat: lunch, movie, theater, museum (you get the idea).
The Gift of Service, Skill, or Talent. Maybe someone needs help around their house. Or your unique skills. If you sew, make a gift card offering to sew for someone. If you draw, paint, take pictures, or are an excellent cook put these talents to use in the form of a gift or offer to teach them your skill. Another idea: a coupon book for services, such as rides, lawn maintenance, housekeeping, pet watching, that can be used throughout the year.
The Gift of Memories. Write a note, a poem, or create a collage of photos and captions of experiences you’ve shared with someone. A memento of times together is a wonderful way to give a gift that lasts forever.
The Gift of Igniting Passions. If you know someone who talks about wanting to learn to paint, buy them a series of classes. Or a how-to book and some supplies. On the other end of the spectrum, if your mother-in-law hates grocery shopping, buy her a month of meal delivery service.
A little mindfulness and creative thought can add joy and meaning to the process of gift giving during the holiday season or anytime of the year.
Food for Thought. . .
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Holiday Digestive Support: Ginger
Around the holidays, or anytime you’ve over-indulged, consider sweet and zesty ginger for nourishing the digestive organs. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a knobby, horn-shaped rhizome with a long history of supporting metabolism, aiding digestion and reducing inflammation. It helps heal upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, motion sickness, and morning sickness.
Current research indicates that ginger stimulates the production of enzymes in saliva and along digestive pathways. Biologically active compounds in ginger bind to receptors in the digestive tract, which seems to be instrumental in minimizing the sensations that create nausea and indigestion. Ginger also plays a role in the breakdown of starches and fatty food. All good things when your tummy has gone sour.
There are many fresh and dried preparations for ginger including tincture, extracts and capsules prepared in different strengths; consult with a holistic physician to determine your medicinal needs.
Ginger is also available as a “chew” or lozenges and tea infusions, all of which are ideal for upset stomach. Don’t forget to try a cup of homemade Ginger Ale, enjoyed with a side of Gingerbread, both prepared with a freshly grated ginger rhizome.
Who doesn’t love this old-fashioned favorite holiday dessert? Just thinking about the aroma of warm gingerbread wafting through the air is bound to put you in a festive spirit. Enjoy gingerbread after your meal or with your morning tea.
Ingredients for Bread
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup molasses
- 2/3 cup boiling water
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger or gingerbread spice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Ingredients for Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup cream cheese
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ or glazing sugar (or Swerve)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9″ square pan.
- In a large bowl, blend the sugar, molasses, water and butter, stirring until the butter melts. When the mixture is lukewarm, add the baking soda, salt, and egg.
- Sift together the flour and spices, and add to the wet ingredients. Gently stir in the crystallized ginger.
- Pour the batter into the pan, and bake the gingerbread for 25 to 28 minutes, or until it tests done with a clean skewer in the center.
- Remove from oven and turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
- While cooling, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the sugar and vanilla, then stir in the crystallized ginger. Apply icing as desired.
Have you ever wondered how the macronutrients in food – fats, carbohydrates and proteins – get where they need to be in your body? This is where digestive enzymes come into play: they move macronutrients, vitamins and minerals out of the digestive tract and into the bloodstream where they participate in functions such as growth and repair. If the body is deficient in these enzymes (due to genetics, illness, or food allergy), food cannot be properly digested.
Major Digestive Enzymes:
- Proteases break down protein into amino acids and peptides.
- Lipases break down fat into three types of fatty acids.
- Amylases break down carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Other enzymes target specific sugars:
- Lactase breaks down the sugar in milk.
- Maltase moves maltose, which is produced from starch, and converts it into glucose that the body uses for quick energy.
- Sucrase works on sucrose and converts it into other sugar molecules.
Deficiencies in digestive enzymes often result in gastrointestinal distress after eating food that contains a starch, fat, or protein the body cannot break down. For example, if you’re deficient in lactase, you’ll feel ill (bloating, cramps, gas) after eating dairy products.
Digestive enzymes are naturally present in many foods. Pineapple and papaya are rich in proteases and can help ease symptoms of IBS. Mango and banana contain enzymes that break down starches. Other excellent sources of digestive enzymes include kefir, sauerkraut, honey and ginger. To reap the benefits, eat these foods at their peak freshness and chew mindfully as saliva activates many enzymes. Eat fruits raw as heating destroys the enzymes.
When treating digestive dysfunction, food allergy or sensitivity, a holistic physician may recommend dietary changes along with enzymes in pill form. Many factors influence how you should take these enzymes (before, during, or after a meal). Your holistic practitioner can help determine how digestive enzymes can best support your health.
Peppermint for Home and Health during the Holidays
Aromatic peppermint (Mentha piperita) has been used for centuries to add flavor or fragrance to foods, cosmetics, toothpaste and mouthwash, soaps, candles, and scented products for the home. Several different cultures also use peppermint leaves, oil, and fresh or dried powder in holistic health preparations.
As a traditional remedy, peppermint is used to awaken the mind and help relieve fatigue. Consider lighting a peppermint scented candle during the busy holiday season. Peppermint is also well known for relief of symptoms associated with the common cold and indigestion; it works by calming the stomach muscles and improving the movement of bile through the digestive system. Some scientific studies indicate that peppermint can improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Because the menthol component of peppermint acts as a decongestant, peppermint essential oil is a good choice for use in a diffuser, as a chest rub, or added to a warm bath. Dried peppermint leaves make for an excellent infusion for tea.
It is possible to be allergic to peppermint. Even though it can ease digestive complaints, it may not be appropriate for people who have acid reflux (GERD). Like many other herbs, peppermint can interact with other herbs, prescription medicine, or supplements. Peppermint can affect respiratory function in young children; it should not be used without the supervision of a trained medical aromatherapist. Be sure to consult your health practitioner before adding any form of peppermint (oil, capsule, tea) to your health regimen.
Doing Good for Others is Good for Your Health
Lower stress, higher self-confidence, and enhanced social relationships – sounds like the health benefits of exercise, right? Surprise! Those benefits also come from volunteering. Whether you’re working at a food shelter, giving time as a literacy mentor, or helping out after a natural disaster, the many ways of doing good for others is also good for your health.
In general, people volunteer because they believe helping those who are having a harder time in life can actually make a difference. That alone makes those who volunteer feel good about themselves, about others, and about their community. But there’s much more to it; research shows that the “happiness effect” of volunteering enhances social, emotional, and physical aspects of health and that these benefits increase as we age.
- Strengthens community ties
- Builds in-person social networks to create genuine friendships
- Reduces feelings of loneliness
- Enhances professional networks and job opportunities
- Strengthens emotional stability for those with and without mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD
- Improves self-esteem
- Contributes to a sense of purpose
- Lowers stress and tension
- Enhances brain function
- Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Promotes being physically active
People who volunteer tend to take better care of themselves; they typically have lower rates of heart disease, depression and anxiety. These health benefits don’t just apply to adults. They apply to kids and teens as well. As noted earlier, the benefits continue as we age and become even more pronounced for older adult volunteers.
So, find a cause (or two) that is meaningful for you, involve the whole family in volunteering, and celebrate all that it does for others and for you!