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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Certified Gerontologist

Get Hygge, Be Happier

December 9, 2019

Hygge: A Danish term defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” The Little Book of Hygge

True confession time: I love to hygge. Pronounced “hoo-gah,” this superior Scandinavian practice has no direct translation in English, but “cozy and comfy” comes close. Hygge comes from a centuries-old Norwegian term meaning to comfort or console. The Norwegians call this the Art of Kos—being “koselig.” Coziness is actually a life skill in Norway. (cue my Norwegian mother-in-law), and is related to the English word “hug”. We might use it as a noun, verb, or adjective. Sort of a one-size-fits-all word for the ideas of relaxation, indulgence, and gratitude. Wintertime is the most hygge season of the year—a blazing fire in the fireplace or fire pit, lighting and burning candles, surrounding yourself with nubby woolen blankets, fuzzy slippers, drinking hot cocoa, lattes, spiced tea, or hot toddies (this one being a Norwegian favorite!) eating delish pastries, and wearing the faded twenty-year-old, once stylish, fleece pants that no one can touch, except to wash. We can hygge with friends—the true expression of hygge, by joining loved ones in a relaxed and intimate setting and sharing some, or all, of the props listed above. However, one can hygge alone, and this is where my heart yearns at the moment.

By choice, I readily admit that right now, I am living life at Mach speed. While walking the walk and talking the talk I offer here, I still run on HIGH when I run, but I do stop and sleep long, meditate, exercise, and recharge. That’s where my hygge comes in. Stopping and being still is one of the most effective things we can do to recharge, reorient, and revive ourselves when the outer world threatens to crush us. Adding candles, a lively fire, a soft blankie, and a delicious hot drink, soothes and restores us on all levels. Strong science backs up this wondrous practice, with new research coming to light all the time. I just love that science tells us to hygge more to feel happier. The benefits of hygge, (seems like it should be called hygge-ing), envelop us even with short stints of hygge; my usual hygge-ing time lasts roughly thirty minutes to an hour. I intuit when my tanks are refilled, and hop up from my nest, refreshed. Sometimes, I close my eyes, and do my gran’s “lie down,” as I often mention, more snuggled into a deep comfy chair than stretching out, but the benefits are the same—afterward I’m ready to go for the next exciting thing.

I first learned about hygge with others when I was just a newlywed and my husband and I would go visiting the various family members during holiday time. Special small tablecloths are made throughout Scandinavia for laying over the coffee table, where the delicious homemade sweet treats are served along with those hot toddies (some even non-alcoholic;-) Delightful forks and tiny spoons accompany the little plates offered. We then sit around and chat and visit often while the evening shadows wrap us in darkness– candles and fire burning all the while. We leave fulfilled from the yummy food and lively conversation. You don’t have to be Norwegian to recreate this convivial experience. It’s a great practice no matter your heritage. The heart connections we create, or strengthen, do so much for our emotional and mental health, keeping our brain humming and our neurons strong. With no set way to hygge, we are only limited by our imagination. Let yours go this season and find time to hygge—both alone and with others; the rewards are so worth it. Happy Hygge!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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Great Remedies for Winter Illnesses

December 2, 2019

I began my studies of herbal remedies back in the early 1970’s when I was in middle school. Back then, I read everything in print, and started my own herbal remedy library. (To be followed by my supplements library when I was diagnosed with endometriosis at twenty-two.) My first, and many of my second-wave baby boomer readers will recall those years where all of us in America were initially exposed to the power of herbs–both in the kitchen and in the medicine cabinet. I remember buying fresh herbs for the first time at the farmer’s market, putting them on my bathroom window sill, and lovingly tending them like a mama hen looking after her chicks.

Soon my mother and I were replacing the dried herbs—the only way I knew herbs existed– with my fresh sprigs in recipe after recipe from Joy of Cooking. In my bathroom laboratory I created beauty potions and medicinal remedies that actually worked. I was hooked! Fast forward four plus decades, I am still using some of my recipes. Here, I pass on my tried and true ones, and a few I learned about more recently.

There exists a doctor’s bag full of non-allopathic (non-pharmaceutical), deeply researched, offerings to help shorten the duration of illnesses and speed us back to glowing health. Since respiratory infections effecting the sinuses, bronchial areas, and lungs, seem to be the most common areas of the body to succumb to illness, we will focus on remedies to help heal these areas. The multi-layer benefits of using complementary medicine is that other parts of the body get a boost as well from the remedies, so we get extra healing and protection all in one! These are recipes which have been around for years, decades, and even centuries, in some cases, and have helped heal the body with time-proven solutions.

One important thing is the dosage. Most of us are used to the dosage of pharmaceuticals: One three times a day; two twice a day, etc. In complementary and herbal medicine, dosage is much more frequent. In so many cases, more times used/administered, but not more medicine, is better. Some of the frequencies may seem like a lot, so I wanted to make that clear.

Before you begin:

  • Run the jar(s) you will use (I like Mason or Ball jars) with new lids, through the hottest cycle in the dishwasher, let dry completely
  • Wash and let the herbs dry completely before making recipes (damp herbs will mold)

It Usual Begins with a Sore Throat

You know the feeling: hurts a little to swallow, your head starts to feel just a little stuffy or light. Start immediately with a Sage Leaf Gargle*. Sage is a powerful antiseptic for internal and topical use. Recommended usage: gargle every 1 to 2 hours. Swish and spit.

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried sage leaves
  • ¼ ounce salt
  • Pour the boiling water over the sage, cover and steep for 20 minutes.
  • Strain and add the salt. Gargle as needed. Store in the refrigerator for a couple of days

Also high on the list of other medicinal uses for sage is Sage Honey**.  This honey is also a powerful remedy for sore throats.

  • Fresh sage to fill ½ the Mason jar
    Local, raw honey to fill the jar to the brim
  • Chop your fresh sage up as fine as you can and add it to the jar until it fills up about half way.
  • Cover the jar with a lid and allow to sit in a cool, dark, dry place for 2-4 weeks.
  • Take one teaspoon every 1-2 hours until sore throat lessens.

Turn jar upside down regularly to keep herbs well mixed

If You Come Down with a Cold or Cold with Cough

There are a couple of items you should always have in your medicine cabinet: Black Elderberry Syrup/Extract and Thyme Syrup***. Elderberry syrup is great for colds, influenza, and even fever. It is carried at health stores. Purchase a product containing 5,000-6,000 mg of black elderberry fruit in the extract. Keep the fresh thyme syrup in the fridge.

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 ounces Lemon thyme leaf (or plain thyme)–fresh is best, but dried will work
  • 1 cup raw, organic honey
  • 1/4 cup brandy, optional (works as a preservative)
  • Put thyme and water in a pan over low heat. Cover with a lid left slightly ajar, simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 45 minutes. 
  • Strain the liquid and discard the herbs. When mixture is just warm, add the honey and brandy (if using). Whisk until smooth. Transfer to a glass jar and store in the fridge for up to four weeks (without brandy) or four months (with brandy).
  • Take 1-2 tablespoons every 2-3 hours to help get the gunk out

Oregano de la Sierra, also called Wild Oregano, or Bee Balm is also an important herb to aid healing when a cold or cough strikes. The recipe for Oregano Honey is simple to make:

  • Pack a Mason jar with fresh oregano
  • Cover completely with local honey and let sit for 2 weeks
  • Can be added to tea, or just taken by spoon
  • Take one teaspoon every 1-2 hours

Two additional outstanding remedies for colds and coughs are Echinacea and ginger.

The wise folks suggest Echinacea within 72 hours of coming down with a cold or cough, when the herb is most effective at eliminating viral and bacterial infections. ONE NOTE: DO NOT take Echinacea for the flu, as it can make it worse.

Last is one of my favorites, ginger. This Ginger Syrup is a snap to make, works wonders when you feel yourself coming down with a cold or have a chill. It helps kill viruses that can lead to an upper respiratory infection, helps soothe and shrink swollen nasal passages, and calms a sore throat.

  • Chop a 3 inch piece of fresh ginger.
  • Add to 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 cups of boiling water.
  • Stir well and then cover it with plastic wrap for about 10 minutes.
  • Strain and drink 1-3 times a day

With your fridge and cabinet stocked with these powerful healing tools you’ll be ready for anything Old Man Winter throws at you–including snowballs!

Until next time… Be Well and Be Vibrant!

Always check with your health care provider for any contraindications.

A version of these recipes is found here:

*Motherearthliving.com

**Thekitchn.com

***Wholefully.com

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A Gratitude Attitude is Where It's At

November 25, 2019

Today, I would like to let you in on a few of the secrets which result from being grateful, and to offer a helpful tool to guide you on your journey toward adding gratitude and appreciation into your life during this holiday season, and every day. It is a meditation I wrote several years ago at the request of friends. You may access it from the yellow shining sun icon on the homepage of my website, www.LJRohan.com , or drop into your App Store and download it: Lysa Rohan Gratitude Meditation™. My recommendation is to add this quick and easy 10-minute meditation into your day and during this week, and then notice how you feel.

So what does being more grateful do for our body, mind, and spirit?  GREAT things! Dr. Robert C. Roberts, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Philosophy at Baylor University wrote in the book The Psychology of Gratitude, an important collection of scientific research on the subject of gratitude and gratefulness, “Grateful people tend to be satisfied with what they have and so are less susceptible to such emotions as disappointment, regret, and frustration. [They have]… a powerful resource for transcending many of the circumstances that disappoint, frustrate, and anger most of us. In consequence, grateful people, whether religious or not, will be less prone to emotions such as anger, resentment, envy, and bitterness.”

The most current research backs up the work of Dr. Roberts. It reveals that grateful individuals experience a wide variety of physical, social and psychological health benefits. For example, folks who practice gratitude say they feel more alive, healthier, and have greater vitality. They see themselves as having an enhanced capacity to be independent and make their own choices using their free will.

 Practicing gratitude makes us psychologically healthier, as well.  We will more often choose healthy activities over unhealthy ones, and are more likely to seek help for health concerns when they do occur, than those of us who don’t have a grateful outlook. Other psychological benefits from adopting an attitude of gratitude include greater emotional stability, and a more positive opinion of ourselves, others, and a greater sense of optimism about life in general. All good news!

 To add even more benefits to the growing pile, grateful individuals tend to report less stress, less anxiety, greater life satisfaction, and better sleep. When we have higher life satisfaction we tend to smoke less and exercise more, and more often choose healthy activities across the board. Even more good news?  These results are found in many different cultures around the world.

Doc Childre and Howard Martin in The HeartMath Solution, the first book from the HeartMath Institute, which documents their ground-breaking research on the energetic and emotional workings of the heart’s response to thoughts of appreciation, found this to be true from their years of research:  Extensive studies using both a Heart Rate Variability machine, equipment very similar to an EKG, and measuring the antibody IgA, an important component in our immune system that fights against invading pathogens and is a key indicator of the health of our immune systems, shows that our heart rate slows when we make the shift to being grateful and these healing, life-enhancing antibodies are released into our blood stream for up to six hours.  That’s a huge pay off for the single choice to shift our perspective to one of gratitude.

This week, especially for my readers in the US who are celebrating Thanksgiving, try and practice my meditation as many days as possible. Notice how you feel afterwards and in the days that follow. Maybe jot down a few notes about these feelings and any thoughts that come to you. Enjoy this journey!

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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Raising Our Awareness about Alzheimer’s Prevention

November 18, 2019

We all have sad stories about Alzheimer’s, a disease like none other. I watched my beloved grandmother’s mind evaporate into the ethers until she was nothing but a breathing, weighted imprint on the bed sheet. November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a time for us to share those stories and remember.

When the first hiccups in my grandmother’s brain appeared, little was known about Alzheimer’s. Ronald Reagan had it, and was being lovingly cared for by his wife, but research was sketchy and, the media gave it little airtime or print space. I first knew something was wrong with Gran when I arrived at her home one cold January morning and found the air conditioning turned down to sixty degrees. She was lying on her bed in only a thin nightgown, the bedclothes thrown on the floor. She was unable to move as the cold air had aggravated her arthritis and she was momentarily paralyzed with pain. My heart broke in half. Here was my rock, my sweet, loving grandmother, whose generosity, and kindness toward me never wavered. I had no idea what was happening to her, but I knew something was terribly amiss. Not long after, my family met with her doctor and learned she probably had Alzheimer’s. In those early days, books were our only informational source and so I read everything in print about the disease—maybe five books– and cried. And cried, and cried. I learned Alzheimer’s was a slow death sentence, as the saying goes, death by a thousand cuts. Anyone who has walked in these deerskins can tell this tale. Eventually Gran was unable to speak or recognize any of us. I couldn’t believe this was happening, and worse, that I, the A+ researcher, could find nothing, or no one, to offer any hope, because none existed at the time.

However, I never gave up my search for preventative measures. When the first information came out about what we could do to stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s (which is a type of dementia) I paid attention. I took up the piano because I love music and wanted to learn to play, and because the early research showed learning a musical instrument might be a good way to avoid the disease. Fast-forward to my second career where I became a gerontologist, and how lucky I was to have Dr. Alison Balbag as one of my professors. Dr. Balbag found that musicians develop Alzheimer’s only 35% of the time compared to non-musicians. Further research expanded on the benefits of music for our brain and cognitive function. I have written extensively about this in past posts: https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/2018-5-14-i-hear-music/; https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/2018-5-21-play-it-again-sam/; https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/2018-5-28-make-love-and-music/

Cue to late 2019, and what we know this red-hot minute as our best protections against dementia and Alzheimer’s, and, amazingly, ways to be vibrant, as well J: HIIT exercise—high-intensity-interval-training, as discovered by my favorite girl gang, Nobel Prize winning duo Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elisa Eppel, might be the top contender. https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/2018-2-26-slowing-down-our-clocks/; https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/2018-3-12-more-is-better/

Add to that the findings of Dale Bredesen, MD, and several others who found diet to be a critical factor, along with stress reduction and increased meaningful social engagement.  https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/your-brain-on-food/; https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/12-best-brain-foods-for-memory-concentration-and-brain-health/    ;https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/2018-2-19-stress-and-memory/; https://www.ljrohan.com/blog/our-vibrant-hearts/

If we can make the following choices, we dramatically increase our chances of keeping dementia and Alzheimer’s as merely words in the dictionary and out of our lives.

  • Say sayonara to sugar in all forms except low-sugar fruit
  • Limit alcohol intake to a few glasses of red wine a week
  • Eat a Mediterranean diet—whole grains, fish, fruits, and vegetables, olive oil
  • Make seven to eight hours of sleep a night a priority
  • Meditate to reduce stress
  • Find more ways to be happy and have fun

I really try to adhere to these guidelines. Do I fail some days? Heck yes, but as Scarlett said as Rhett walked into the darkening mist, “Tomorrow is another day.” Being aware of what makes our lives better, allows us to make new choices tomorrow.

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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Powering Up Our Immune Systems

November 11, 2019

Building up our immune system to fighting fitness always ranks as our first choice of defense against disease. Not to get sidetracked, but even the leaders in cancer research have finally recognized that strengthening the immune system offers the best protection against disease. (More about that in future posts.) Now, before the temperatures drop and stay down, adding these supplements to our daily routine will help us stay well. As always, check with your health care provider to be clear of any contraindications.

Vitamin C

At the top of the charts is an old favorite, vitamin C. Some of the latest stats show more than forty-three million adults from the age of twenty to sixty are deficient in vitamin C. That number jumps up drastically for seniors. Why? The short answer is we don’t eat enough fresh fruits and veggies, and the depletion of the nutrients in the soil over the last fifty years has lowered the nutrient content of our agricultural products. As many respected experts tell us, we now cannot get all the vitamins we need by simply eating the right foods. Added pollution, stress, and medications have also contributed to our deficiency.  We get some Vitamin C in our food, but now supplementation is a necessity. Taking 1000 milligrams, in 2 or 3 doses throughout the day, perhaps at mealtimes, will boost your immunity system. Don’t take it all at once, as it absorbs and is eliminated each time we visit the loo, and so spread out the doses. Try different types to see which you tolerate best. My personal favorite is  1000 milligrams of time-released vitamin C.

Zinc

Adding this mineral to your daily regime gives you an edge against illness, and it becomes a even bigger gun if you actually get sick. If a bug finds you, zinc lozenges should be a go-to. Make sure the lozenge contains at least 50 milligrams of zinc; ideally 75 to be effective, but cap the strength of each lozenge at 10 milligrams. Taking more interferes with the absorption of copper. Some great advice: pop a lozenge just before you get on a plane!

Vitamin D

New research points to vitamin D as a frontline fighter against illness. The Institute of Medicine suggests 4,000 IU a day for people nine to ninety-nine. I take that much every day.

To this list I add a great Multi-Vitamin with Minerals. To insure you are getting a good quality one, the smart money is on buying ones from a health food store, versus say, the drug store or a big box store. Talk to the store manager or people who work there and ask questions. The popular one isn’t always the best one.

If you are already working with a nutritional expert, you are in great shape. For the rest of us, these recommendations will be a good start for super-charging all your disease-fighting systems

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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