Mindfulness for Mental Health and Recovery

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In my experience mindfulness is the precursor to meditation. It requires much less skill than meditation and can be done anywhere and at any time, making it a very valuable tool in mental health recovery. Mindfulness is a mental exercise in which you intentionally hyper focus on the way you are physically experiencing the world in that precise moment, using your 5 senses (smell, taste, sight, sound and touch). This helps you disengage the reactive, fearful, fight-or-flight mode of your brain when in crisis and engage your logical brain to process the thoughts, feelings and emotions you are currently experiencing.

Basically mindfulness helps you realize, “Hey, it’s another panic attack/flashback/etc., but I’m not currently in physical danger and I’m not going to die.” This unfreezes your mind, helping you pull yourself out of the panic attack/flashback/what-have-you so you can effectively focus on redirecting your thoughts. Think of your brain in crisis like a frozen computer or phone. You can’t get the computer to do what you want and it just keeps giving you the same error. So you have to shut it down and reboot it. Mindfulness is like shutting down all the thoughts cycling in your brain in order to reboot with calm, logical thoughts.

Before I get into the exercise itself, I want to stress the importance of practicing the exercise when you are fine and NOT in crisis. You want to get so good at going through the technique that it becomes a knee-jerk reaction as soon as you start thinking of it. The more you practice the less difficult it will be to employ when you are in full blown panic.

Also, the practice I am going to outline was taught to me by my therapist, a PhD clinical psychologist. This technique is not my own and may differ from what you are used to. *This exercise is not meant to take the place of prescribed medication or medical attention in the event of a medical emergency*

In the beginning it is helpful to choose a quiet place to learn the technique, but it isn’t necessary. It may also help to close your eyes, and have a focal object that you can use your 5 senses to interact with (I learned with a raisin).

 

Now that you are prepared, close your eyes and notice the sounds in the room around you. Can you hear people talking in the next room? Can you hear cars outside? Can you hear the air conditioning running, or the heat? Maybe you can hear the whirring of a ceiling fan or the fan of your computer. Can you hear people walking or moving around? Maybe you hear birds chirping or a dog barking. Can you hear yourself breathing? Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Now notice the way you are sitting. Are you slouching or sitting upright? Are you sitting on a hard chair? Do you feel your bones pressing into the seat or back? Maybe you’re sitting on a couch. Notice how soft or firm it is under your weight. You may like to shift your weight to really feel how it is supporting your body. Are you comfortable? Do you have any aches or pains anywhere in your body? Now shift your focus to the focal object in your hands. Roll it in your hands. Does the object roll easily or not? Rub your fingers over its surface. Does it have any grooves or etching? Or is it smooth? Is it grainy and falling apart? Does it feel cool to the touch, or warm? Bring the object near your face. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Does it have a scent? How would you describe the scent? Is it pungent or faint? Does it smell floral or fruity? Or does it smell savory or spicy? Open your eyes. Inspect the object closely. Does it have any defects or damage to it? Is there writing on it? Does it have wrinkles or divets on its surface? Feel the surface as you inspect the object. Really see the object as your fingers move over it. Now close your eyes again. Place the object in your mouth. Do not bite into it, chew it or swallow it. Just let it rest on your tongue. Can you smell it as it sits in your mouth? Is it making your mouth water or does it accentuate any dryness in your mouth or throat? Can you taste it? Now roll it around with your tongue. Is the taste more intense as you move it around? Is the scent more intense? Is it dissolving or falling apart in your mouth? Is moving it causing you to salivate? Now bite into it. What is the texture like? Gummy, crunchy juicy? What is the first flavor you notice? Breathe in and out through your nose as you chew it. Does this intensify or change the experience of the flavor? As you continue to chew it does the flavor change or taste different? Do you feel a desire to swallow and clear your mouth, or could you just keep chewing? When you are ready clear your mouth swallowing or removing the object. Open your eyes. Do you feel more aware of your surroundings and your body? Do you feel more present, mentally and physically, now than you did when you began reading this article? Do you feel calmer and more together?

 

This is the power of mindfulness. Imagine being able to tap into that every time you start feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts or emotions! With consistent practice outside of crises, you will build your mindfulness muscle so you can flex it when you need it, wherever you are. My therapist advised me to keep oe of those little snack boxes of raisins in my purse so I can practice at random. When you’ve got that mindful feeling down, you won’t need a focal object. Some people don’t need the focal object at all, even in the beginning. That’s another great thing about mindfulness. It’s so flexible you can customize the practice to you once you know how it works and what works best for you. Eventually you won’t even need a prompt like this. You can just think 5 senses, focus on them, notice them and calm will follow. But you MUST practice!

Let me know how the exercise went for you! Comment below! Have you tried mindfulness before? Was it similar to this exercise or totally different? Do you plan to practice this exercise, or did it seem unhelpful? Do you have any mindfulness tips? I’d love to keep the conversation going down in the comments, so if you have any questions ask ‘em and I’ll meet you down in the comments to help you out!

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Rachael’s Green Smoothie Recipe

20180504_104544Most of ya’ll know by now, I make my own green smoothies almost every day. And with this beautiful Spring weather I think a lot of people are looking for a cool morning breakfast. I know smoothies have been ‘trendy’ for a few years now, but only in the last year or so have I actually been trying to make them at home myself. A few years back Tropical Smoothie Cafe was really popular in this area, but it’s offering were very limited for the health conscious. Now I see Smoothie Kings everywhere and even fast food chains are cashing in on the trend. This is a problem to me for a few reasons. First, shit is EXPENSIVE! If you thought Starbucks coffee was expensive, smoothies are about double the price. Second, the smoothies at these places are terrible for you. They add sugar and/sweeteners, unless you request otherwise. The average sugar content in an 8oz fast food smoothie is over 20g! Most of the ingredient lists read like a dessert, rather than a nutritious snack on the go.

So, for the last couple years I have been experimenting with different fruit combos and various recipes. Then, a few months back I learned about pea protein and supplement powders that can really turn what I thought of as a snack into a healthy, nutrient dense, balanced meal. Of course, that started a new wave of experimenting and tweaking but before long I came up with a base recipe and now all I do is change the fruits around. Oh, and I don’t use ANY sweeteners, stevia, sugar, honey, agave nectar, nothing extra to increase the sweetness. You don’t need it!

I use roughly two cups of fruit, one for sweetness and the other is low on the glycemic index and adds more nutrients and fiber. All that fruit makes it sweet enough. I also prefer to use as much organic food as possible, but you know your budget. For years buying organic wasn’t in my budget, so don’t beat yourself up about. One tip though if you want to use organic, but find the fruit going bad before you get to it (and then being pissed off at how much money you wasted, or is that just me?), try buying bulk, frozen organic fruit. The only fresh fruit I use are bananas and green apples. Everything else is frozen, bulk bags. Also, the fruits I am listing are ones I have been able to get year round. Now that summer is coming on, I can’t wait to start experimenting with different types of melons, berries and other seasonal fruit.

If you don’t find the smoothie sweet enough, you might want to consider going sugar free for a month. You may have built up a tolerance to the taste of sugar, which is easy to do considering how prevalent it is in the Western diet and food products available. If you aren’t worried about your sugar intake, you can add dates, honey or agave nectar. But please do consider tapering off added sweeteners. Too much sugar isn’t good for anyone!

Now below you’ll find my recipe base. Then I’ll give you my favorite fruit combinations that change the flavor up and keep it interesting. I’m one of those people that can’t eat the same thing everyday. One of the reasons diets were so hard for me to stick to in the past. Now I have a smoothie nearly every single morning! Enough blabbing, on to the recipe!

To help you if you want to make my exact smoothie I have labelled where I find the exact ingredients I use, either (WF)=Whole Foods or (V)=Vitacost. Feel free to substitute at your own discretion!

 

Rachael’s Green Smoothie:

  • 1 huge handful of Organic Girl Superpower Greens (WF)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Natures Way Vitamin C Powder (V)
  • 1 serving Vega One All-In-One Shake Unsweetened Natural, Stevia Free (V)
  • 2 tablespoons organic peanut butter
  • 2 cups nut milk
  • about 2 cups fruit

 

My Favorite Fruit Combos:

  • Banana, green apple
  • Banana, blueberry
  • Banana, strawberry
  • Mango, green apple
  • Mango, blueberry
  • Mango, strawberry

 

Optional flavor enhancers:

Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon, Cacao Powder (*contains naturally occurring caffeine), the list could go on…

Do you drink green smoothies? What are your favorite fruits to add that I should try? I’d love to hear any recommendations you have on extracts, spices or herbs to try! Comment below and I’ll see you down there!

 

 

Current Favorites

Today I’m bringing ya’ll my current/recent favorites. Some were from the end of March, but most are April favorites. The categories mentioned will be media, skincare, makeup and another favorite that doesn’t fit into those categories. Feel free to scroll to the heading that interests you!

 

MEDIA

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First and top media favorite is the Spotify premium subscription my husband got me! I can now link my Spotify account with my phone, our home media center and my car. Now I can listen to what I want, when and where ever I want AND without commercials. I’ve been really loving their ‘mood’ category where you can pick a playlist named after different moods. Some are hits and others are misses, but it’s fun to see if your mood matches up with the playlist. My current favorite playlist, Island Reggae, was suggested to me by a friend and I’ve been loving it for weeks now. Anyone else love reggae? Let me know below! And if you have Spotify, check that playlist out and let me know if you like it!

The next media favorites are some YouTube and Instagram accounts I discovered and have been loving. On YouTube I have subscribed to the following channels that feature non-toxic, green beauty reviews and tutorials:

Brown Bunny Meli is the creation of the cute and funny Meli. Not only do I love her beauty related vidoes, I really love her Therapy Thursday videos in which she shares her mental health and therapy journey in order to destroy the stigma attached to both. She shares the techniques, books and other recommendations from her therapist, too and I find that really interesting and helpful.

Lacresha Berry , aka Berryberrystylish on Instagram, is another channel I subscribed to and love. This woman is hilarious and prolific! She posts a video almost everyday, and they are short and to the point. She does transformation videos, makeup tutorials and reviews. Lacresha’s personality is so uplifting and she never fails to get a laugh out of me.

CrueltyFreeVeganBeauty is run by Danielle, and she posts lots of in-depth, long product review videos and demos. If you’re looking to sit and hang out with someone who is real, up front and laid back AND has tested a shit-ton of skincare and make up, Danielle is your girl. Her videos are so informal, yet intimate and I love that she lets her kid and fur babies be in her videos.

Green Beauty Project is Adrianna’s channel and she makes green beauty tutorial and review videos. She really does her homework on the ingredients in the products she reviews, so you can always expect a very thoughtful review from her. Also, her tutorials are usually uncomplicated, lovely and easy to replicate.

Naturally Malika is Malika’s channel which features reviews of all sorts of non-toxic lifestyle and beauty products and makeup tutorials. Her videos are quick and easy to follow, plus she has the loveliest warm personality. She’s also very good about sharing any discount codes she has, and who doesn’t love that?!

Here are just a few Instagram accounts I’ve followed recently, and really enjoy!

Linanatlife is curated by Lina and she is a very kind and encouraging human being! She posts about all aspects of living a natural lifestyle and about traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and its associated practices, such as acupuncture. She shares her personal experience, as well as knowledge gained during her training as an acupuncture and a TCM student. She is very engaged with her following in the comments, as well as through DMs.

iseeuwell is curated by Mariam of I See You Wellness, a wellness and self-care purveyor. She posts positive daily affirmations and seeks to empower all women, but specifically women of color who are often left out of the self-care/wellness world. On her website she sells self care products which are gender neutral and inclusive. She also hosts events as a leader in the wellness industry.

UndocuMedia is curated Iván Ceja, an activist for undocumented immigrants and immigrant rights in the United States. He shares the stories of undocumented immigrants and the injustices committed against them that go undiscussed by mainstream media. He also advocates for the rights of many other at-risks populations ignored by our government. I love that he also shares activist events and campaigns so you can find many ways to be involved in the fight for social justice!

SKINCARE

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I was introduced to Naturallogic Skincare by Danielle, of the aforementioned YouTube channel, CrueltyFreeVeganBeauty. Her reviews of several products from the brand really struck a chord with me. Danielle shared that the founder, Toni Barandon, had formulated very effective, natural products to treat acne and that they had worked wonders on her skin. At the time of watching her review I was suffering the worst (for me and my usually normal/oily skin) hormonal, cycstic acne breakout. I had been taking a synthetic hormone to treat my under active thyroid, and it was wreaking havoc on my skin. I reached out to Toni about my skin issues and health, and found a kindred spirit. She made several recommendations, but to make a long story short (and to not spoil an upcoming brand review), I have been blown away by the effectiveness and luxurious experience of her products! I highly recommend you check out her brand, and keep an eye out for my review of the products I have been using!

MAKEUP

I have two makeup favorites to mention, the first is natural and the other is conventional. In the picture below I’m wearing both products. First up is an eyeshadow I bought from Brown Leaf Cosmetics in the shade Champagne. It’s very pigmented and luminous, so I used it as a highlighter as well as the ‘halo’ for this halo eyeshadow look. The other product that’s been a favorite is the Ardell Stroke A Brow feathering pen. I saw a makeup artist use it to create the appearance of individual brow hairs to fill in sparse brows. It works so well, but you do have to use a very light hand and be precise, two things that are very hard for a person with tremors, LOL!

 

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The last favorite that didn’t fit into any of these categories has been all the soy candles I have bought from Natural Annie Essentials. Annie creates the scents using 100% vegan, eco-friendly and recyclable oil blends, and she uses eco wicks free from lead and zinc. I’ve bought 6 candles so far! My current favorite is the newest addition, the Island Vibes candle. It smells like eating tropical fruit while catchin’ some sun on the beach. It has me wishing so hard for an island get away this summer! I love all Annie’s products so much I’ve become a brand ambassador for her products, which means I can offer ya’ll a discount! By using the link above you’ll get 10% off your ENTIRE order and I get a tiny percentage from the order you place, which I will invest in more products to test for you guys.

So what are some of your current favorites? Tell me in the comments below. Also, feel free to leave any questions down in the comments, too! I hope you’re all having a good week, and you can look forward to several upcoming videos this week on my YouTube channel aninformalkindathing.

 

 

 

 

February Favorites

Here it is the end of March and I’m just now getting to February Favorites, but hey, better late than never! So I’ve been considering how I want to do my favorites and what I’ve come up with is bringing you several categories of my favorites. Not just makeup and skincare, but more personal favorites like music, movies, YouTube channels, books and so on. I’m sure I’ll need to make adjustments as I go because I may not have favorites every month in every category, or I may think of a new category, so I reserve the right to make changes! Anyway, enough with housekeeping, let’s get down to business.
Media Favorites:

Music

jmonae

The artist I had on repeat all month was Ms. Janelle Monae! Guys! You probably know by now, but the singles she’s putting out…damn! Sooo lit! But the song that really gets me going is “Make Me Feel”. If that song doesn’t get you going, you’re dead! Somebody needs to put a toe tag on you because you gotta be dead. If you haven’t heard it yet, what are you waiting on?! Go listen to it and comment about it here. And if you’ve already listened comment with your opinions! I want to know what you think.

Movie

BlackPanther-Women

BLACK PANTHER. Need I say more. I’m certain we’ve all seen it by now. This all black movie (besides Brits, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman) was sooo… needed (especially with the current U.S. administration). I was awe-struck by all the deeply melanated skin and the independent, fierce female cast members. I was close to tears with finally seeing a movie that celebrates a culture and people I have long admired.

TV Show

frankenstein

The TV show I was binging in February was The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix. I came upon this show by just scrolling around Netflix looking for something new, and I saw Sean Bean’s ruggedly handsome face and hit play. Luckily it turned out to be a very interesting shake up and retelling of Frankenstein from the viewpoint of a crime inspector in late 18th century London. This crime drama/thriller/fantasy/period-piece kept me guessing until the end. Although not a masterpiece of writing (plot holes were an issue), it kept me watching through both seasons.

YouTube Channels

Always looking to expand my circle of eco lifestyle friends, I was looking through my recommended channels and saw Keisha Adinkra’s channel and was immediately hooked. Then while watching her channel I saw some of her collab videos with Nardia from the channel KayaJourney, and was smitten with Nardia as well. Both YouTubers are gagging me with their #BlackGirlMagic while lifting up black and people of color owned eco beauty brands. As if that wasn’t enough, Keisha soon announced the release of the winter box of her newly launched GreenBeautyForUs subscription box! Keisha created this subscription box to address the lack of shade range for and representation of women of color in the green beauty space. She aims to celebrate WOC and provide them with eco brands that create formulas pigmented enough and with a deep enough shade range to flatter EVERY woman out there. With that being said, Keisha curates each box to be friendly to women of every color, even my white self (lol!). Y’all know I jumped on that immediately! You can see my review of the winter box here Intro GBFU Box Review Find out more about the box (and subscribe for the soon to ship Spring box) here GBFU She also includes wellness tools such as, a sage and palo santo bundle to clear negative feelings/energy, a raw citrine crystal focal object and a written guide to meditation using these tools.

Books

healing

As most of you know I have been struggling with my health for a few years now and recently came upon acupuncture and Tradition Chinese Medicine. I was intrigued and started acupuncture in December last year and have been reaping the benefits, so I decided to learn more about eating for my specific ailments and Chinese medicine constitution. A little google research later and I found Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition (3rd Edition). Not surprisingly a whole foods, almost vegan diet was recommended for me. I was trying to read this entire mammoth (784 page textbook), but ended up just using the index to look up my ailments and constitution and find the information that pertained to me so I could incorporate the recommendations as soon as possible and have since been slowly reading the book properly.

iknowwhy

Now, for my love of Southern literature (as well as the edification of my soul) I have been reading Maya Angelou’s first memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Much of Angelou’s traumatic childhood resonated with me deeply and painfully, but the joys and love of family balances and ultimately outweighs the darkness in this literary autobiography. I can’t wait to get started on Caged Bird, the next installment of her memoir series.
Makeup Favorites:


First up are the lip products I received in the Winter GBFU subscription box, which were from the brands Natural Annie Essentials and NUS Beauty. From NAE I got the Lip Scrub in Coconut Cream and the Lip Balm in Herbal Medley. The lip scrub has been given Holy Grail status in my routine and the lip balm lives in my purse so I am never without it! I am in love with the Lip Gloss in Kali (top) and Liquid Lipstick (bottom) in Diana we received from NUS. Both are bold, highly pigmented shades. That being said you can sheer each out by using the tiniest amount of product if you don’t feel confident wearing them at 100%.

On to favorites that I found on my own! Plain Jane Beauty’s Coconut Water Setting Mist, which I bought the full size of, and their Time To Prime makeup primer in sample size. Both products are very hydrating and help keep makeup in place hours. Just in case you think the mist is scented, it isn’t, so don’t worry about it competing with other scents. Also, the primer sample provides enough product to use about 5 times or more. A little goes a long way! I feel both products are very reasonable for the quality and amount of product you get. The mist is $22 for 5oz and the full size of the primer is $22 for 1.2oz pump bottle.

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My final favorite is the Laws of Nature Cosmetics Foxy Finish Mineral Creme Stick Foundation (my shade is Wheat). Keisha and Nardia both reviewed the foundation and it looked so hydrating and smooth I had to try it. I order samples in satin and matte of the liquid formulation and a sample of the stick formulation. All three performed so, so well but I feel the stick formulation gives the most bang for your buck. The stick is easily buildable enough to be used as a concealor, full coverage foundation or sheered out to light coverage. None of the formulas got cakey or separated on me through the day, even with my oily skin (with or without a primer). As I said, it can be full coverage straight from the stick, but it also manages to feel light and moisturizing. For those that watch my YouTube channel this will be no surprise, but this is the best organic, eco foundation I’ve tried to date. All that, and it’s only $35 for the full size stick!
Skincare Favorites:

I only have two skincare favorites from February, mainly because I have a backlog of skincare I’m trying to use up before I get new stuff. But since there were a couple good deals on two products I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, I fell off my skincare no-buy and picked up them up.

First I got the Mun Skincare Akwi Purifying Cleanser in a travel size and on sale. I would describe Mun Akwi as a moisturizing milky, gel-like cleanser with a very light, fresh scent. It’s very good at removing makeup, but also very gentle and leaves behind a nice bit of moisture. It’s a very lovely product that I highly recommend if you want a luxury experience. The travel size is $12 for 15mL. The full size is $60 for 100mL.

My last skincare favorite (and the end of my favorites for February) is the Lotus Moon Skincare Hyaluronic Intesive Facial Serum. I have been dying to get my hands on a hyaluronic serum to find out what all the fuss is about. HA is touted as a deeply hydrating, bio-available and skin plumping ingredient. They can vary in pricing depending on the concentration of HA in the product. I didn’t want to break the bank just trying it out, and decent-sized samples of products containing HA are hard to find. So when I saw this serum on sale I snapped it up. This particular product is very hydrating and does give you that raved about “drink of hydration” to your skin, but I didn’t notice any skin plumping or any of the other claims this particular product boasted about. Of course, I’m not using an entire line of their products so that could be an explanation. But the hydrating claims are legit and I do love this product, especially at the price I got it at (around $30 for the full size product, 1.2oz). I do think I will save up my pennies to try a different HA product, rather than buying this one at full price. But if it goes on sale again, I would totally repurchase!

Okay ladies and gents! That wraps up my February Favorites! Let me know what your favorites were, and if you have any suggestions for different categories of favorites that you’d like me to include for March Favorites, comment below. And even if you don’t, comment below! I want to engage with you guys, whether you have questions or just want to shoot the breeze. Meet ya down there!