psychology

How To Stay Healthy During The Holidays

holidays.jpg

Oh, the holidays. We look forward to them all year, but they can also stress us out. And we're not just talking about the stress of organizing. The abundance of unhealthy food and overeating can be a source of anxiety. Most people gain 1 to 3 pounds over the holidays. Not a big drama on its own, except that many people never lose those extra pounds. How do we make the holidays a little healthier, so we can enjoy it guilt-free. Here are 7 tips...

1. Exercise More the Weeks Before

How not to worry about the small weight gain during Thanksgiving and Christmas? By shedding some extra weight beforehand! Start doing adding some cardio exercises the weeks before, lengthen your existing workouts, and/or eat smaller portions than usual. Possibly the simplest and most reliable way to stay healthy on track during the holidays, and diminish guilt.

2. Throw in Walks

You may not have time or motivation to go do full workouts, but a nice stroll can be very fitting holiday activity! Take the family for a walk in nearby nature and burn calories while enjoying the fall and winter weather. The cosier it is inside afterwards! If you are at a big party, there are always some people who are down for a little after-dinner walk.

how to stay healthy and guilt free during holidays los angeles spa sophia3. Eat Beforehand

While you might be tempted to skip eating all day on Thanksgiving and Christmas to "save" some calories that way, it is actually wiser to eat something small before. Research has found this prevents people from binging on food. So don't let yourself go hungry, eat a fulfilling breakfast with a small portion of protein.

4. Choose Calmly

When you see all that food everywhere it's tempting to load up your plate with everything, but try to take a moment before. What dishes are there? What are your favorites? Which dishes are special? Go for only the things you really like and that you don't already have weekly. There is no need to try everything. And know that plain turkey, pumpkin pie and roasted veggies are healthier than gravy loaded red meat, chocolate cake and bean casseroles.

5. Be Mindful

When you do eat, savor! Put your fork down after every bite and eat consciously. Perhaps have a sip of water every few bites. Be present in the moment and really enjoy your food. It takes your mind about 20 minutes to realize you're full, so don't rush. Talking to people is also great to take your mind off the food. Traverse the room, speak to all those you haven't seen for a while. Enjoy!

6. Drink Water

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. It detoxes, helps move your food down to digestive tract, and also makes you feel satiated more quickly. If you can, try to drink water instead of soda, sugary juices, and alcoholic beverages. Drinking water on top of those is still a great idea, though. Add a little lemon or lime juice for an extra kick.

7. Use Healthy Holiday Recipes

You may not be able to control what others bring to the table, but you can control what you bring, so make it worth your while. There are many healthy holiday recipes around, but here are some quick tips:

  • Grill, roast, broil, stir-fry, poach and steam food instead of frying or deep frying.
  • Season turkey and other meat overnight with spices, rather than using creamy, heavy sauces
  • Use fat-free chicken broth for gravy.
  • Use fruit purees instead of butter and oil for baked goods.
  • Use plain yogurt or fat-free sour cream for creamy dips, mashed potatoes, and casseroles.

Need a little relief from all the holiday craziness? Spa Sophia is offering 20% off all Zents products with the purchase of a Zents massage! Find out more here.

The Beginner's Guide to Mindfulness

spa1.jpg

We all get stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration, annoyance and jealousy. Mindfulness can decrease these negative emotions in your life. If you've ever been to SpaSophia we've probably shared mindfulness based life lessons and advice with you. While mindfulness may sound a bit vague, it's actually one of the few philosophies that has been validated by science. Mindfulness based therapies have been widely adapted in schools, prisons, hospitals, rehab facilities, mental health clinics and other places. Spa Sophia is a big fan of mindfulness and has seen it work miracles for our clients. So what is mindfulness, and what are the benefits? Let us give you a little introduction...

The History of Mindfulness

Mindfulness comes from anapanasati, a form of Buddhist meditation. Mindfulness was then made popular in the Western world by Jon Kabat-Zin, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, in the 70's. He created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which was quickly adapted for therapies in clinical psychology and psychiatry.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is "the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment." In other words, living in the now. This sounds very simple, but can be quite challenging to practice in daily life.

Ever not remembered wether or not you brushed your teeth or locked your car, or had a moment where you discovered the food you just started eating was suddenly all gone? And by gone we mean: You ate it without realizing. These things happen because we're constantly thinking about the past, worrying about the future, or distracting ourselves otherwise. We're hardly ever in the moment, consciously focussing on the task we're doing at present. Mindfulness teaches you to do just that.

mindfulness tips stress anxiety spa sophia venice ca los angelesHow Is Mindfulness Practiced?

Mindfulness is practiced by deliberately focussing on the present as it is, without judging. A million thoughts will enter our minds regardless, because that's just how we're wired. This is okay though, that's where the "without judging" part comes in. If thoughts come to you,  just accept them and then let them go. What you don't do is start thinking about the thought, or getting annoyed with yourself for having the thought. This takes you out of the moment.

An example: You're driving to work and suddenly are thinking about your ex. Hey, we've all been there... But just let that thought come. Don't start thinking about if it means you're not over him/her or about all the things you still want to say. Don't judge yourself for having the thought either. Accept that it's there, and then let it float away by focussing on the road or whatever else is in your view.

It will be difficult at first, but repeated practice will slowly rewire your brain, making it easier and easier until it's a habit.

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

Mindfulness teaches you to see the moment as it is, without adding your own past experiences or hypotheses to it. Instead of presuming someone said something for reasons you've come up with yourself, you focus on the facts. This helps you see things more clearly and make better decisions.

Research has also found that mindfulness is an effective way to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can help you cope with anything from daily annoyances like traffic on the 405 to the loss of a loved one. And because mindfulness removes the clutter from your brain, you're also more open, which leads to more creativity and - although hard to prove scientifically - opportunities. Mindfulness therefore makes you happier, calmer and healthier.

Need some extra relaxation to kickstart and practice your mindfulness? Come to our boutique spa on 1027 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice and enjoy a lovely massage, facial or healing Ayurvedic treatment. Book one online or call us at (310) 564 6676.

8 Tips to Make Your Home & Office Stress-Free

homestressfree.jpg

8 tips to make your home stress free and office stress freeOur environments are a reflection of ourselves. We are in our homes and offices for huge portions of our time, and the way they're designed and decorated have a big influence on our lives. At Spa Sophia we know this all too well, which is why we've put a lot of thought into the interior design of our treatment rooms and lobby. Want to make your home and office a calming place as well? Here are 8 tips to make your home and office stress-free...

1. Add A Touch of Nature

Plants and flowers aren't just pretty, they're calming too. The addition of plants and flowers has been proven to ease recovery in hospital rooms, lower blood pressure, reduce stress and increase positive feelings. In offices they have even lead to reduced absence rates, lower noise levels, decreased room temperature and lower humidity. So go get that extra oxygen flowing in your home or office and add some greens.

2. Declutter

When it's messy in your home or office, it's messy in your head. You unconsciously - or even consciously - carry that clutter with you throughout the day. So start decluttering to make your home stress free, or your office. Go through them and ask yourself: Do I really love this object? Does it add anything to my life? Do I use it? If you hesitate, it's likely time to get rid of it.

3. Get Rid of Things That Bring Negativity

That artwork a lost friend made you, those linen you bought with your ex: Some objects carry negative energy. Wether pictures or objects, if things invoke negative feelings or bring back unhappy memories, it's good to let them go. Don't do it to avoid facing problems though, and don't throw things out in an emotional moment. Clean up only when you're calm and have made peace with the associated memories.

4. Organize

Some stuff you just can't get rid of, even if you'd like to. Bills, anyone? That's why it's important to have ways to organize them, so they don't pile up all around. Get a binder for your important paperwork,  a mail sorter for mail, boxes for small things like rubber bands and paperclips...Make sure you get organization systems that look nice though. There are many cool, creative organization systems available these days, just have a look at these and these. Who knew it could be fun to make your home stress free?

5. Use Calming Colors

Colors can have a big influence on your mood, so put some thought into which ones you use for your home or office. The walls are of course the most important, but if you can't change those, think of the colors of your artwork and functional items. Purples, greens, blues and neutral colors reduce stress, while yellows and reds have been found to raise blood pressure.

6. Let The Light In

Light is one of the most important  things for wellbeing; It influences your sleeping patterns and moods, and studies have shown that the presence of natural light indoors has a very positive effect on health and stress.We're lucky here in Los Angeles where sunshine is a given, so make good use of it. Let natural light into your bedroom so you can wake up naturally, and make sure there's plenty of natural light in your living room and office.

7. Add a Personal Touch

Let your environment be a reflection of who you are and what you love, so you feel more at home. Even if you work in a cubicle there's room for photos, artwork and other decor. Having pictures of loved ones and other objects that evoke positive feelings around reminds you of the good things in life, even when you have an off day.

8. Try Some Feng Shui

Feng Shui is an ancient Chine philosophy that occupies itself with harmonizing human beings with their environment. While sometimes shrouded by somewhat extreme superstitions, the essentials of Feng Shui are quite rational. We've already mentioned a couple tips that could be considered feng shui, but here are some more:

  • Make sure your workplace is set up so you have an overview of the room
  • Do not work with your back towards a door
  • Try to achieve some symmetry in the way you set up a space
  • Create walkways that are obstacle free
  • Fix things: sticking drawers and doors may be little annoyances but they accumulate in a big way

For more tips on how to de-stress read our Ten Easy Ways to De-Stress article, or book a relaxing massage or healing Ayurvedic treatment online or by calling us at (310) 564 6676.

Sleep Tips: 5 Natural Ways to Improve Your Sleep

sleep-e1404488984605.jpg

sleep tips 5 natural ways to improve sleep Sleep is one of the most important things when it comes to staying healthy, both mentally and physically. During sleep our bodies and brains recover. Sleep helps with processing memories, growth, and restoring the immune system. Making sure you get an adequate amount of sleep every night is therefore very important. Modern life can make this challenging sometimes though. Many people therefore opt for sleeping pills, but sleeping pills come with dangerous side effects, plus the risk of developing a dependency.  Luckily there are also many natural ways to improve your sleeping habits. Spa Sophia selected the five best sleep tips...

Sleep Tip 1: No Bright Screens Before Bedtime

Laptops, TV, iPods, phones: They all mess with your melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone secreted in your brain that plays a big part in what is often called your internal clock, your circadian rhythm. Melatonin levels are influenced by light: When it gets dark, melatonin levels rise, making you feel tired and sleepy. When it's light melatonin levels are low, keeping you feeling awake.

Brightly lit screens lead to a delay of the rise in melatonin levels, which is why you'll have a harder time finding sleep if you look at bright screens before sleeping. One of the best sleep tips is therefore not to play video games, watch TV or anything else that involves a bright screen up to an hour before sleeping. So yes to eye pads and no to iPads!

Sleep Tip 2: No Caffeine After 2PM

This may be one of the most well-known yet most ignored sleep tips. Seriously, people. We know you love your coffee, afternoon tea, and soda, but any caffeine after 2PM will make finding sleep at night much harder. It takes your body about 6 hours for deplete 50% of an 8 ounce caffeine intake. That's 6 hours for your regular small Starbucks coffee. Think of what a venti (20 ounces) will do to you!  So opt for herbal tea, decaf coffee, or other caffeine free drinks after 2PM.

Sleep Tip 3: Get Moving

Exercise is the miracle medicine for many problems in life: lack of energy, depression, cardiovascular diseases...we could go on and on. And it also helps you sleep better! This is one of those sleep tips we probably don't even need to get into the science of - we've al felt how tired a good workout can make us - but research has proven that sleep improves drastically when people pick up some aerobic exercise.

Sleep Tip 4: Get On a Regular Sleeping Schedule

Like we described in the first one of the sleeping tips, melatonin plays a big part in creating a circadian rhythm. And sticking to this rhythm really helps you find sleep every night. Wether you're a night owl or morning person, try to go to sleep and get up at around the same time every day. Even in the weekends. The occasional all nighter is okay, as long as you have some sort of routine.

Steep Tip 5: Don't Eat Before Sleeping

Eating right before going to bed - especially food with a high glycemic load - will flood your blood with glucose. This in turn will cause your heart rate to go up and free energy for your body. Which is exactly what you don't need right before going to bed. So say no to those late night snacks.

Want to enjoy ultimate relaxation while awake? Book one of Spa Sophia's amazing healing massages online or by phone by calling (310) 564 6676.

How To Be Happy: 5 Ways To Become a Happier Person

happiness.jpg

how to be happy  tips for happiness - spa sophiaHappiness comes from within. Although external things can make you feel happy temporarily, no career success or exotic vacation can sustain a long term, resistant feeling of contentment and happiness. Therefore, in order to be a happier person, you have to look inside and work on yourself. So how do you become a happier person? Spa Sophia spoke with psychologists and clients, and found the following six way to be happy...

1. Forgive

Forgiveness is good for the heart, literally. It has been associated with lower blood pressure and less stress and anxiety. Although far from easy, hanging on to grudges, resentment and hate is even harder. It takes up a lot of energy, and often spills over to other parts and relationships in your life. So do it for yourself. Here are some tips to help you forgive:

  • Remember that forgiving is not condoning. You’re merely letting go of it, not approving it.
  • Try to empathize with the person you want to forgive, see things from their perspective. Did they have their own reasons for doing what they did? If possible, talk to them to find out.
  • Think of the mistakes you’ve made in your own life. We all make mistakes.
  • If communication with the person is not possible or conducive, write all your feelings down in a letter, including why you’re forgiving them. Then dispose of the letter in a way that feels good to you. Throw it in the ocean, burn it, and let it symbolize you letting go of the anger and sadness you had.

2. Be Optimistic

According to research, money and things truthfully don’t make people happy, as long they have enough for the basic needs. And this research included lottery winners. What does contribute is a positive mindset. Here are tips to make looking at the bright side easier:

  • Think of the good things every day, whether it’s a lovely breakfast you had or a surprisingly empty freeway on the way to work
  • Be grateful for the things you have. Just to be healthy and have friends is already quite a lot.
  • Compare yourself to people who have it worse, instead of those who have it better
  • Think about what you can learn from the bad things that happen to you, and see them as a lesson

3. Be Kind to Yourself & Your Body

In today’s world we constantly get images how our bodies, homes and lives should be. We’re always expected to chase perfection, which sets you up for never being satisfied. Therefore let go of this and be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Be kind to your body. Don’t go on restrictive diets, just treat it with respect. Work out, eat healthy. Make the best of what your body can be in your situation.
  • Embrace who you are fully, both the good and the bad things. You’re a human being, just like everyone else. And your flaws and strengths are all part of that.

4. Let Go of Things You Can’t Control

Yes, LA traffic is awful. And yes, that driver is an idiot. And that extremely long wait for customer service? Not fun. But also not worth getting worked up about. Learn to laugh at life’s annoying situations, and let go of the little things. Also let go of the bigger things in life that you can’t control. Lawsuits, companies downsizing, friends being less available: Just do your part to the best of your ability, and then let things unfold on their own. You can’t control them anyway, so you better spend that time relaxing than worrying.

5. Be In The Moment

Think about this: How often are you actually taking in your surroundings, seeing what’s around you? So much of our lives are spent either thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Or in our phone, while real life passes by around us. So try to be in the moment more. Don’t dwell on the past, it can’t be changed, move on. And don’t worry too much about the future, it’s out of your control. Easier said than done of course. Here are some tips to help you stay present in the moment, when you feel yourself start to worry:

  • Pay attention to your breathing. Inhale and exhale consciously.
  • Focus on an object in your environment, and study it. Go over all its little details.
  • Set your phone on silent and look around you

Happiness is not a given, it's a choice. It takes work, redesigning your thoughts, seeing things in a new light. And of course you'll still have your bad days, but that's okay. Just be extra kind to yourself on those days, and make a new start the next day.

Need a little extra help with relaxation and happiness? Check out the healing massages Spa Sophia offers and book one online, or call 310.564.6676  to make an appointment!

Ten Tips For De-Stressing

relax.jpg

ten tips for de-stressing - spa sophiaStress is not only unpleasant, it’s also very unhealthy. Stress breaks down your immune system and can lead to depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment. On top of that stress can make your skin thinner and less capable of restoring itself. At Spa Sophia we therefore place a lot of emphasis on making our facials and waxes completely stress free, and we also offer a variety of healing and relaxing massages. To help you continue to feel stress free at home and at work, here are ten tips for de-stressing…

1. Put Things in Perspective

If there’s a specific thing that’s stressing you out, ask yourself: How important will this be a week from now? A month from now? Even a year from now? Think about it in the grand scheme of things.

2. Make Your Mornings Count

Mornings set the pace for the entire day, but too many people rush their mornings. Wake up even 10 small minutes earlier so you can get a little times for yourself, eat a healthy breakfast, and do some stretching exercises or meditation.

3. Take Sufficient Breaks

Always take breaks during work. You may feel like it will cost too much time, but not taking breaks decreases your productivity so you actually save time by taking breaks. Don’t take your breaks behind you computer though. Get away from work both mentally and physically.

4. Exercise

Working out releases all kinds of stress relieving and happy making hormones, so break a sweat, even if it’s just during a small walk, or by taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

5. Make To-Do Lists

To do lists ensure you won’t forget anything and can make the daily or weekly tasks more overseeable and less daunting. Plus, it’s so satisfying to cross things off that list!

6. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. We need sleep to keep us sane, healthy and productive. Therefore make sure you get enough sleep, even if you feel like you don’t have the time for it.

7. Eat Well

The foods we tend to crave when we’re stressed usually only make stress worse, since they trigger the same bodily reactions. Stress makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure go up, and so do foods that have a high glycemic index, such as most candy and junk food. So snack on nuts, avocados, fish, fruits and dark chocolate instead!

8. Smile

Science has proven that even fake smiling will make you feel happier. Not to mention the benefits of laughter therapy. So put a smile on your face and not only look nicer, but also feel nicer!

9. Enjoy Some Nature

The great outdoors has been proven to have stress relieving effects, often because the lack of stimuli offers space for reflection. LA has so much great scenery to offer. Go enjoy a hike in the hills or a walk on the beach, and you’ll feel invigorated after!

10. Breathe

People who do yoga and meditation will already know this, but just paying attention your breathing, and making sure your breaths are deep and steady can work miracles for your stress levels. It may sound easy, but see how quickly you forget. So let go, and breathe.

Need a little extra help relaxing? Book one of our healing massages online or call Spa Sophia at 310.564.6676 to set an appointment today.