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How Gardening Can Help Your Body and Your Mind

Summer is officially here, which means it’s time to grab the potting soil and shovel and get to work. Not everyone has a green thumb, but gardening doesn’t have to yield visible benefits; sometimes the feeling of accomplishment is all you need. Gardening has been found to positively affect people’s physical and mental health. If you’re looking for a way to get outside while also improving your whole self, gardening may be the hobby for you.

Gardening can lower your risk of a heart attack or a stroke.
A study done in Stockholm, Sweden, found that regular gardening can cut the chances of heart attack and stroke by up to 30% in over 60 years old. By exposing your skin for just 10 minutes without sunscreen, you can soak up enough Vitamin D to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and various types of cancer. By gardening, even for only 15 minutes a day, you are improving your chances of a longer, healthier life.

Gardening increases your hand strength and your dexterity.
Getting outside in the dirt can keep your hand muscles strong and agile. Gardening typically requires a large range of motion in your hands; keeping them busy by planting and harvesting keeps them nice and healthy. However, do not push yourself, as strenuous work with your hands can lead to carpal tunnel, tendonitis or repetitive stress injuries. Use an ergonomic grip and alternate the use of your right and left hands to balance out the amount of work your hands are doing. Using your non-dominant hand is also a brain exercise to keep it functioning normally.

It builds up your immune system.
Remember the Vitamin D mentioned before? It can help you fight off colds and flus. Also, the soil that gets under your fingernails and drives you crazy is actually beneficial. It contains bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae that has been known to soothe asthma, allergy and psoriasis symptoms when inhaled or absorbed. Who knew dirt could good for you?

Gardening can help alleviate depression symptoms. 
The Mycobacterium vaccae mentioned above has also been found to help people who suffer from depression. Breathing it in or ingesting it can have similar effects to antidepressants. The physical activity gardening require results in elevated body temperatures that can lead to better moods. 

It can aid in stress relief and self-esteem.
A Dutch study found that gardening can lower people’s cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” and can influence more than just your mood. Higher levels of cortisol have been found to affect immune function, memory, learning problems, obesity and heart disease. Gardening also improves your self-esteem when you see your hard work on a tiny seed turning into a blooming plant.

Gardening can decrease your chance of brain problems and dementia.
Research has found daily gardening to be the best way to reduce your risk of dementia (reducing incidence by 36%). Imagine having a hobby you love that’s also great for your health. Dementia is tricky syndrome to understand, but scientists think gardening helps reduce is chances of occurrence because it involves so many critical functions, such as endurance, strength, problem solving and sensory awareness. 

Gardening is a fun hobby that has proven health benefits. Whether you like getting down in the dirt or just seeing your hard work pay off, it may be your next passion project.

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6 Healthy Advantages of Volunteering

At this point, you’ve probably heard all of the pros about volunteering. You can make a difference in the community, you can impact future generations, you can simply brighten someone else’s day, and so on and so forth. There are no limits to all of the positives that go hand-in-hand with an altruistic lifestyle. 

But, one benefit in particular which often gets overlooked is how volunteering affects you. Sure, you know volunteering has a positive influence (make friends, build connections, gain experiences, etc.), but did you know that it can actually assist your health? If you don’t believe us, check out these six healthy advantages of volunteering.

1. Volunteering boosts self-esteem.
Possibly the greatest asset to volunteering is its obvious effects on mental health, particularly an individual’s self-esteem. Doing good for others and the community provides a natural sense of accomplishment, pride and new identity. Not to mention, building a group of encouraging individuals around you gives you a strong safety net of support, which helps boost your overall self-esteem and mental well-being.

2. Volunteering decreases stress.
Nothing helps relieve stress better than a meaningful connection with another person or animal. Studies have often demonstrated the “Happiness Effect” of volunteering. When we give our time to others, our brains release the chemical dopamine, which influences our moods and helps lower stress levels. So if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, chances are volunteering for a cause can help calm your nerves.

3. Volunteering reduces depression.
Overtime, these lower stress levels can also reduce rates of depression found in volunteers. Getting involved in a community of volunteers fosters social interaction and increases your support system based on common commitment and interests—both of which have been shown to decrease rates of depression. While volunteering definitely isn’t a cure for depression, it is a great element to keep in mind if your mental health is struggling.

4. Volunteering keeps you active.
Of course, volunteering can even influence your physical health. Particularly for people who find themselves aging faster than anticipated, volunteering gives you a physical outlet for activity. It gets you out of the house and doing something active, even if it’s simply walking door to door and asking for donations. If you really want to boost your health, connect with a local nonprofit and see what volunteering opportunities they have that require physical activity.

5. Volunteering provides purpose.
No matter which organization, cause or charity you choose to get involved with, volunteering plays an essential role in the well-being of your community. This kind of responsibility gives volunteers a genuine sense of purpose for their lives. With a newfound purpose, volunteers can experience better emotional and mental health as they strive towards something worthwhile. If you feel lost or confused, then volunteering could be the key to find your way out.

6. Volunteering promotes longevity.
One study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that, “…individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health.” With all of its benefits on your physical, mental and emotional health, it’s no wonder that volunteering can even help you to live longer. By stepping outside of yourself and supporting someone else, you can encounter even more benefits.

You already know all of the benefits volunteering has on others in the community. However, volunteering can also have significant advantages for your health. If you want to feel better physically, mentally and emotionally, then volunteering could be the perfect step. Give it a try and see how your life improves.

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Father’s Day Gift Ideas That Give Back

It’s that time of year again. With the summer sun beating down and the fresh scent of aftershave in the air, Father’s Day is right around the corner. This weekend, we celebrate the men in our lives who have been with us from the very beginning. Whether he’s your biological father, grandfather or someone who fills the role of father in your life, this is the perfect time to show him how much he means to you. 

Altruism can seep into every avenue of your lifestyle, such as shopping for the special man in your life. In fact, there are always ways to give back to others around you, even including the presents you buy. Here are some ideas for Father’s Day gifts that give back.

Reusable Water Bottle
If you want to love your dad and love the environment at the same time this Father’s Day, then consider gifting him a reusable water bottle. Not only is this the perfect present for the outdoorsy, athletic or nature-loving father, but it’s a great way to care for the environment at the same time. Research companies to find the ideal water bottle for your father. Some, like Love Bottle, provide reusable glass water bottles that are even made in the United States. Find a water bottle he would like and surprise him with it.

Socks for a Cause
For the fashion-forward (or backward) dad, consider giving socks for a cause. For example, Society B is an online marketplace of products that give back and are fair trade. They even donate 10% of their sales to various charities. Their website showcases various charitable socks, such as those that help fund education, fight hunger and give clean water. Search online for other charitable sock organizations. Pick out a pair that matches your dad’s favorite outfit, or surprise him with something silly and generous to wear.

One for One
If you’re not sure what to buy, but know you want to give back, then consider researching one for one companies near you or nationally. A one for one company refers to a specific business model, in which a corporation gives away one needed item for each item purchased. For example, if you buy a pair of shoes from TOMS for your dad, they will give another pair to a person in need. One for one companies are the perfect way to make sure to give back, even if you’re not quite sure what your dad wants. Explore some options and find something he would love.

Honorable Donation
Maybe your dad feels very strongly about a certain cause, charity or nonprofit organization in your area. Why not use Father’s Day as an opportunity to give to a foundation in his name? Make a contribution to someone or something in need, then be sure to credit him for the gift. On Father’s Day itself, you can even make a cute little coupon, card or video, sharing the special news of how you donated in his name. Give it a try to really celebrate him by celebrating others on Father’s Day.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to step up and find the best gift possible, which truly personifies the father figure in your life. If you strive to live an altruistic lifestyle, keep these ideas in mind for Father’s Day gift ideas that give back. Then, have a wonderful day this weekend celebrating the man who means so much to you.

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Celebrating World Bicycle Day

Happy World Bicycle Day! This year, we celebrate the first annual World Bicycle Day. Just last year in April of 2018, the United Nations General Assembly declared the third day of June as a day to recognize “…the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, and that it is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit, sustainable means of transportation.”

World Bicycle Day is a day to celebrate something we often take for granted: The humble bicycle. With the help of a bicycle, we can take better care of the environment, our physical bodies and even spend time together. So how can you mark this momentous occasion? Here are a few ideas we put together for celebrating World Bicycle Day.

Ride a bike.
Of course, one simple way to celebrate World Bicycle Day is by…riding a bike. If you’re physically capable, take full advantage of the day by going out and riding your bike wherever you live. Even if you don’t own a bike, plenty of major cities have programs where you can rent a bike and ride it on an excursion before returning. Check in your area then plan out your bike trip around the community.

Go for a picnic.
While you’re on your bicycle adventure, don’t forget to pack a picnic for the road. Gather your friends and family together and take some food with you to enjoy. Then, you can all bike out into the country or a local park, take a break and enjoy a delicious picnic in the afternoon. With warm June weather, there’s nothing better than a trip in the sunshine, followed by a relaxing lunch outside in the shade.

Teach someone to ride.
If there’s someone in your life who doesn’t know how to ride a bike yet, then today is the perfect day to teach them! Whether it’s a little kid, or even an adult, use World Bicycle Day as an opportunity to teach them how to ride. Not only will they appreciate it, but it’s also a great bonding activity for you and any friends or family members in your life. And of course, then you can all go on bike rides together throughout the rest of the summer.

Donate a bicycle.
Today and every day, there are kids all around your neighborhood, community and city who would love to ride a bike, but don’t have the financial means to buy one. If you have a gently-used bicycle hung up in the garage that you haven’t used in awhile, consider donating it to a local nonprofit organization. This World Bicycle Day, you can make a genuine difference in the life of a child for the summer.

Give to a cause.
Even if you don’t have an old bicycle stored away, you can still find ways to give back and get involved. Check with family and children’s organizations near you to see what the biggest need is on World Bicycle Day. Then, consider donating your time, effort or talents to give back. No matter what you can give, you can have an impact on people in need around you. Do some digging and see where your help is most wanted.

World Bicycle Day might not have been around for very long, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Today is an incredible opportunity to value the planet, your body and spend meaningful time with loved ones. If you want to celebrate, keep these tips in mind for the best World Bicycle Day ever.