On the Heart

Lately I haven’t been feeling myself. Chalk it up to seasonal depression, or perhaps, the fact that I use cooking (eating) as procrastination and I’m getting fat. And in that case, my procrastination could be seen as a double-edged sword; as a blessing or a curse. I’m getting really good at soothing my emotional-crisis cravings while slowly lining my arteries with plaque. I just really love butter. See ya in a few decades, heart disease.

All jokes aside, my family hasn’t been doing great lately in the heart department; physically and emotionally. On New Years Eve, my Papa had open heart surgery.

My Mom and I acted as his primary caretakers for the first few weeks of his recovery – a daunting task because of my lovely Nana. I say daunting not because I don’t love her, but because she’s an intense case; severely arthritic and severely stubborn. Not to mention, a severe snore-er if neglecting to use her CPAP machine. We would know. She ‘forgot’ it so we spent many sleepless nights in the same hotel room. Thank god I had my headphones.

All in all, we spent close to two weeks in Burlington, VT. Hospital – hotel – hospital – hotel. That was the routine.

My Papa, (and I guess this is why they say opposites attract), is my Nana’s polar opposite. I may have written about him before because I admire him with everything in me. Former dairy farmer, salt of the earth penny-pincher (and master investor), a jokester in his own right at 77, and the most patient man I have ever met is my Papa. The waiting room was the hardest part. A routine 4-hour surgery turned to 5 and we were getting restless. Luckily, my Aunt Pam, our comic relief and nurturer, had made the trip and was now staying with us.

As I watched my family clamour around my Papa (and yes, clamour is the right word – they’re loud), I felt real pride; the heaviest feeling in the world, besides guilt I suppose. It’s hard for me to describe what I’m feeling most of the time but this emotion I could easily identify. We were all holding it in; the fear. We were all praying. We were all in denial. But we were all strong. We were strong for each other.

He’s home now and recovering well. He’s back to some of his old tricks, but can’t drive on his own yet or go outdoors for long periods of time. Both activities he lives for, but a few more weeks and he’ll be himself again – just with a cleaned-out, fully functional heart.

I had to go back to school after winter break and it broke my heart to leave. My Mom keeps me updated (and she wants to rip her hair out 24/7. I won’t go there), but there’s nothing like being there. Being home.

I just wonder what home will look like to me when I’m 77. Who will my heart be?

 

 

Advertisements

Improve Your Mood with a Simple Sniff

Believe it or not, working at Little Trees CAR-FRESHNER this summer has piqued my interest in fragrance! We do so much with fragrance at work (and I’ve smelled some of the best and the absolute WORST aka malodor) that I’ve decided to do a little research of my own on fragrance.

Obviously if you’re smelling something nasty, you’re going to feel nasty, too. Bad smells alert your brain to danger. Is your milk expired? Give it a quick sniff. You’ll know.

What I really want to focus on are the good smells out there and what they can really do to improve one’s mood – and why.

As babies, our olfactory senses are the first to develop and although we aren’t as gifted as dogs are in the smell department, we have a highly developed sense of smell (some more than others). Our body’s limbic system (see below) is directly connected to our olfactory bulbs – so what we smell plays a bigger role in our moods than we might think.

limbic

Recently businesses like hotels and clothing stores have begun to use scent as a marketing tactic. While clothing stores like Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister, Inc. douse their product in their signature scent, they’re really training your brain to identify with the brand in a positive way. If you don’t like the scent, however, this tactic may have the opposite effect.

Studies have been done, like this one where participants were exposed to certain fragrances and asked to identify which mood they elicited. This method is called Mood Mapping and has been trademarked by Stephen Warrenburg at Oxford. While studies like this one have been done, lots of others (most likely less qualified than Mr. Warrenburg) have gathered evidence of specific natural fragrances being useful for a variety of stress-relieving outcomes.

Here’s what I found:

Ah, Vanilla. 

You know the smell. I’m sure I don’t have to do much explaining to convince you that the warm and sweet scent of vanilla makes you feel nurtured and content – and gives you a sense of nostalgia, too. P.S. Hot tip: the scent of vanilla wards off pesky flies.

Grapefruit

This sweetly sour citrus scent spikes energy and clears the mind giving you the extra boost you need to get through the day. Eat half a grapefruit a day, or even once a week, and you’ll reap the benefits of the combination of fiber, potassium, lycopene, Vitamin C, and cholene which all contribute to a healthy heart. It also helps regulate blood pressure.

Turmeric

The pungent and bitter root spice has an encouraging benefit: the release of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin signal depression, so turmeric plays an adverse role on the mental disorder.

Bergamot

Feeling irritable or angry? Take the edge off with a fragrance that includes bergamot. Bergamot scent is derived from the bergamot orange. It’s a fragrant yellow/green citrus fruit roughly the size of a Florida orange. Bergamot is supposed to be mood balancing.

Jasmine

Personally, I’m not fond of the scent, but it has some pretty great qualities. Jasmine is supposed to be deeply sedating to the body’s nervous system. It’s perfect to use after a long day – just try to stay away from stressors and take a few deep breaths after applying.

Lilly of the Valley

One of the cutest and most fragile flowering plants, Lily of the Valley, is known to help with sadness or grief by inducing a sense of security and comfort. Keep an eye out for those little white bells!

Rosemary

Rosemary improves memory retention and fights headaches, mental fatigue, and physical burnout. It’s also delicious and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that prevent brain aging and improves digestion.

 Coffee

The magical scent of coffee. Mmm. I feel more relaxed just thinking about my morning cup. A study was done by Han-Seouk Seo of Seoul National University in which rats were stressed out because they were being deprived of sleep, but once exposed to the fragrance of Colombian coffee beans, brain protein levels changed and had a calming/antioxidant effect on them.

Try these out. You never know, a better day might be a sniff away.