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Are you feeling down or blue? If you are then one thing’s for sure: you’ve likely encountered any number of natural products being promoted for their potential ability to benefit and improve your mood. Everything from B vitamins to fish oil to 5-HTP have been studied and written about in terms of their potential role in not only combating depression, but actually making us feel generally happier.
But there may very well be a far simpler approach that doesn’t require actually taking any supplement at all. Basically, it involves the “radical” protocol of getting outside and going into nature. In fact, in addition to improving mood, nature exposure has been demonstrated to have a wide ranging impact on health including:
And we actually focus on how these powerful health benefits, especially as they relate to the brain and mood, in our upcoming book, Brain Wash.
There are a number of pathways by which nature exposure may positively influence mood. One fascinating line of study relates vitamin D to the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. In research published in 2015, Dr. Rhonda Patrick proposed a mechanism in which vitamin D plays a critical role in the brain synthesis of serotonin. This study also highlighted the role of marine omega-3 fatty acids in brain serotonin activity. As Dr. Patrick explained, deficiency of vitamin D, a fairly common situation in Americans, might well relate to compromise of the brain’s ability to produce serotonin, and, as such, may underlie depression.
It should come as no surprise that when we are outside and exposed to sunlight, our bodies are making vitamin D. As we’ve now learned, this may well enhance our ability to produce the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin.
Currently, the most widely prescribed antidepressant medications ostensibly work by allowing for increased brain serotonin. While these drugs are not thought to increase the production of serotonin, they may increase the overall levels of this neurotransmitter by reducing the rate at which it is degraded in the brain. But importantly, and unlike getting outside for a little sunshine, these so-called SSRI antidepressants have been associated, quite commonly, with side effects. As indicated on Medscape discussing SSRIs:
Common adverse effects of SSRIs include gastrointestinal upset, sexual dysfunction, bleeding, emotional blunting, cognitive dysfunction, and changes in energy level (ie, fatigue, restlessness).
To be sure, it is not appropriate to compare the efficacy of nature exposure directly to that of medications. Nonetheless, if we are to make recommendations based on the notion of above all do no harm, it seems reasonable to consider getting out in the sunshine as a first step to improving your mood.
Hi friends! Matt, Riese, and I are back from our big weekend in Boston for my brother’s wedding!
It was a wonderful weekend and so fun to celebrate the happy couple.
We flew up on Friday, which was Riese’s third airplane ride (the first two being when we went to Florida for vacation back in December).
Man, traveling with a toddler is… exhausting, even with a 2:1 ratio! The last time we traveled, she was hyper on the plane, but in the airport I just had her in the carrier most of the time and she was fine.
This time, she was on the move and did not want to be contained!
Here she is “helping” us wheel the suitcase through the airport (this was before she tried to walk outside/through one of the gates and then got VERY angry when we didn’t let her):
She did pretty well on the plane, though, thanks to Matt’s creativity with some new “games”, her favorite of which was “put the ice in the cup.”
It involved putting ice in his hand, and then one by one she would put the ice back into the cup. She was obsessed with it. We also created a fun new rattle by putting ice into an empty water bottle. 😉
We arrived in Boston around lunchtime and met up with Matt’s parents at the airport – they offered to come to Boston for the weekend to take care of Riese while we were at the wedding festivities – very grateful for them!
We grabbed some sandwiches in the airport and shared them with Riese on our ride to the hotel.
Riese was really ready for a nap when we arrived, so we got her down, and Matt offered to hang out in the room while she slept so I could meet up with my brother Steve!
Steve had about an hour to kill before needing to go get ready for the wedding rehearsal, and his bride Roxanne was off having her hair done, so it worked out that we had a little one-on-one time before the wedding madness began which was a nice treat.
First stop: Tatte, a cute cafe, for coffee + a snack while we walked.
Then we walked around and explored Harvard, where Steve is in grad school.
Once Riese was up, I met back up with Matt and we took her out to explore a little too.
Sidenote – if you’re traveling with a little one and don’t want to deal with lugging a pack ‘n’ play, stroller, or other baby gear through the airport, look into local baby gear rental companies.
We rented a pack ‘n’ play and a stroller (they ended up giving us the City Mini, which I was excited about because I’ve been wanting to try that stroller – it’s nice and compact and handles really well) and it ended up being cheaper than it would have been to check both at the airport.
For car seats, look at local cabs/shuttles that offer car seats, or use Uber car seat option. Since we would just be taking cars to and from the airport but could walk everywhere once in Boston, it wasn’t worth it for us to bring our car seat with us.
After exploring, Riese went off with Matt’s parents to have some dinner, and Matt and I headed off to the rehearsal dinner, which was at Benedetto restaurant in the Charles Hotel.
We were honored to see we were seated across from the bride and groom! 🙂
The food was delicious, too!
Everything except the starter salads and the dessert were served family style.
There was also a steak course I forgot to get a photo of, probably because I was already full from the pasta, which was DELICIOUS! The steak was amazing too though!
Dessert was tiramisu, my brother’s fave, plus some fruit. 🙂
On Saturday morning, the wedding festivities continued with a “runaway bride 5k”!
There were nearly 50 wedding guests of all ages taking part – amazing, right? We were so impressed with the turnout!
We ran along the water which was gorgeous – it was a beautiful morning for a run.
Also, how amazing is this shirt?! My brother wore one too, lol.
I didn’t wear a watch, but I kind of wish I had because the last mile was blazing – the leading group kept getting faster and faster thanks to some friendly family competition. 😉 I think it was my first sub-8 minute mile in ages!
Post-run we all gathered for Union Square donuts, Bagelsaurus bagels, and coffee. The cinnamon sugar donuts were my fave, so I went back for more!
Matt and I walked by Flour bakery + cafe on our way back to our hotel and I grabbed a latte + a hard boiled egg to round out my breakfast with some protein and extra caffeine. It hit the spot!
We also found this little nugget on our way back! Riese spent the morning with Matt’s parents, my aunt Janet, and my cousin Spencer’s wife Michelle (my uncle Tim and cousin Spencer were running the 5k with us).
She had a lovely time with them. 🙂
After getting cleaned up and getting Riese down for her nap, I met up with the bride, her mom, my mom, and the maid of honor to get our hair and makeup done!
We also enjoyed some lunch from Tatte cafe that my brother brought by – I had the chicken and sweet potato salad with goat cheese and a cider vinaigrette, which was delicious.
I was debating what to do with my hair and ended up going for half up, half down, with some fun braids in the mix! The hairdresser made it look really cool and it was easy to do – she basically just braided a couple sections, threw in some bobby pins, curled the ends a bit, and was done.
I wanted something with no hair spray or other hair product because I hadn’t packed my shampoo or conditioner and didn’t want to have to wash my hair the next morning. 😉
Here I am with the gorgeous bride, just before she went off to take “first look” pictures with my brother!
After the first look pictures (which we creeped on from the windows, of course), Steve and Roxanne took the rest of their photos, including those with family!
Riese made an appearance in her party dress for the photos (she didn’t come to the actual wedding, though – too much of a wild card and I would have felt super bad if she was noisy/distracting during the ceremony). She wasn’t super into her dress (kept trying to rip it off), but we thought it was quite fetching. 😉
Here we are with the bride and groom! <3
The ceremony was held at the beautiful Harvard Memorial Church.
I didn’t get any photos of the ceremony because I was busy enjoying it! It was lovely. 🙂
The reception was held at the Harvard Faculty Club a short walk away. Each table was themed for a location that meant something to the bride and groom; our table was “Mystic”, for Mystic, CT, where they were when they apparently decided to get married!
The food was delicious:
As was the cake, which I didn’t get a photo of, but it was carrot cake – YUM.
We danced the night away and even made it to the after party at a dive bar nearby that had “scorpion bowls” – basically alcohol + fruit juice and dangerously tasty.
After not making it to bed until 1 a.m., morning came fast, that’s for sure! Especially with Riese waking up around 4 or 5 a.m. because she was not loving trying to sleep in a new place. Worth it, but oof.
There was an official wedding brunch the next day, but not until 10 a.m., and we were up early with Riese and hungry, so we walked over to Tatte again for breakfast with Matt’s parents.
I had the quiche + salad and it was delicious! Plus a much needed latte.
We headed to the airport after the wedding brunch – sad to say goodbye to the happy couple, but so glad to have been able to celebrate with them this weekend!
The trip home was pretty exhausting – when we originally booked our flights, Riese was still doing 2 naps, so we booked a lunchtime flight thinking she’d nap when we got home. Now that she’s down to 1 nap, we were traveling right over naptime, and Riese was not interested in sleeping and was all over the place.
We did our best distracting with games, food, books, etc., until we gave up and pulled up some random game on Matt’s phone. Whatever works.
Dinner last night once we were home and got Riese to bed was salads! I wanted something light and veggie-packed, and we had some random stuff to use up in the fridge.
Greens + leftover barley + edamame + string beans + broccoli slaw + chickpeas + poppy seeds + feta + some shredded chicken that I made in the instant pot. Just put your chicken breasts in the instant pot, cover them with water, sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and cook on high for 15 minutes.
It was warm enough to dine al fresco – what a treat!
Another huge congratulations to my brother Steve and his bride Roxanne – we are so happy for you two! And so glad that after 12 years of friendship you admitted to each other that you wanted more. <3
Hello long lost friends! I cannot believe it has been nearly two years since I posted. Wow! Time has flown by.
I thought I’d take a moment to say hi and to share some updates on what’s been happening over here. After focusing on recipes, stories, and images for this space for 7 years, I didn’t want to simply vanish!
Beyond the full-on craziness of the state of the world, and the personal
Are you afraid of dishes with lots of fat, vegan butter and olive oil? Well, then look no further, because this dish is full of it!
Silky, cheesy cauliflower puree is plopped and swooshed onto a plate, then topped with roasted and garlic-studded mushrooms with crispy + caramelized onions. Top with microgreens to fancy it up!
You can use any of these components on their own: the cauliflower puree can be used with any dish that loves mashed potatoes. The mushrooms can top any grain-based, pasta, soup or brunch dishes. My favorite part are these caramelized onions: I love how they crisp up when cooled!
Yield 2 servings (with extra puree for leftovers)
I used Violife Vegan Feta here, but any rich + creamy vegan cheese will work here.
This is the second post in a two-part piece about my travels to Vorarlberg in Austria. Read the first part: Mountain Hiking, Herbal Walks and Local Food in Lech, Austria For the second part of my Vorarlberg stay, we moved to Bregenzerwald. The drive to Bregenzerwald from Lech is a magical weave through valleys and mountains. Sweeping […]
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