Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Radio Silence

Image result for radioWelcome to another Wednesday here at the Take It or Leave It challenge! After last week's extra podcast listening, I decided to flip the script this week and give my ears a rest. I'm a big fan of background music and almost always have it playing at home, at work, and in my car. I like many different musical genres, so it often doesn't matter what makes up the soundtrack of my day. But there's always something.

Until I turned it all off.

On the drive to work that first morning, which takes a whole twelve minutes, I feared I had made a terrible mistake. Without public radio, I had nothing to distract me from the annoying rattle coming from somewhere in my car. One of the first things I do when I get to my desk is choose the music I will stream for the day. Instead, I gritted my teeth at the sound of the fluorescent lights buzzing overhead. Were they always that loud, or had I spontaneously developed some kind of Jaime Sommers bionic woman hearing?

At home, things were no easier. Cooking and eating without jazz music in the background is a lot less fun. And I don't know if this is weird, but I always wake up with a song in my head. Sometimes, it's a song I like. Sometimes, it's Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go". There's no rhyme or reason to it. Without a new song to take its place, I was stuck with the bad song earworm for much longer than I wanted.

That's how most of the week went: me being hyper-aware of sounds I usually don't even acknowledge. And I also found out that there is such as thing as having too much time alone with one's thoughts. Well, maybe not for Bill Gates. But definitely for me. I confess that I had many moments where I almost lost my resolve and turned on some damn music already.

But I made it through seven full days of radio silence. Surprisingly, things got easier by the end, and I actually began to appreciate (some of) my silent moments. And various studies suggest that silence lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, promotes brain cell growth in the hippocampus, regulates hormones, prevents arterial plaque formation, and decreases stress (even more than listening to music!).

Well, that's some food for thought. I know this week can't possibly be a Take It, because listening to music makes me happy. But I will make a point to be more mindful of silence and fit it into my day on a regular basis.

And now, for some throwback weirdness, here's Thomas Dolby's "Radio Silence". So very 1982.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Invasion of the Pod(cast) People

Image result for podcastBack in the days before television--and definitely before my time--families used to gather around the old wireless radio for their nightly entertainment. From Little Orphan Annie to the Metropolitan Opera to the infamous War of the Worlds, there was something for everyone. Today, in the digital age, we can stream television content anywhere, anytime. And we do. But apparently we still love to listen to great stories, because podcasts are huge.

As of June of this year, the running total of podcasts is 750,000 and climbing, which adds up to more than 30 million individual episodes. Wow. And I thought finding something to watch on Netflix was hard.

Even though I sort of failed at audio books a few weeks ago, I wanted to give daily podcasts a whirl. I've dabbled in podcasts before, but not on a regular basis. So this week I dipped my toe into the Amazon River-sized stream of audio content and discovered variety that puts even the golden age of radio to shame. Despite that vast quantity of podcasts, it didn't take me long to narrow down my preferences:

Sports: No thanks. I don't mind watching, but listening to people talk about sports? No, no, a thousand times no.

Humor: It depends. Something clever (without an abundance of casual profanity), or the always funny Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, definitely. A couple of guys riffing about beards or whatnot--I'll pass.

Politics: Nope. I get quite enough of that by watching the news.

Science/Nature: Yes, please.

Psychology/Social Science: Another yes. History, too.

True Crime: This is a big one, because they are apparently very popular. I enjoy a good mystery, but if I start to feel like someone might be creeping around in the bushes outside, then that's not the podcast for me.

In general, the best podcasts follow the rules for good storytelling: they draw the listener in quickly, they build suspense and/or interest, and they don't waste time with a lot of extraneous details. It is not as easy as it might seem, but there are plenty of podcasts doing it very well. This week is a Take It, and if you have any podcasts to recommend, please leave me a comment! Happy listening!

Image result for podcast
Get your ears ready!

Friday, September 13, 2019


Image result for earthYou know how the noun friend has given rise to the verb friending? Ditto the noun earth. Earthing, or grounding, is the idea that by putting our bare feet in contact with the earth, our bodies are thus "plugged in" and able to absorb electrical charges that are potentially beneficial.  Here's a more science-y explanation from the "Journal of Environmental and Public Health":
"The Earth’s negative charges can create a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems which may be important for setting the biological clock, regulating circadian rhythms and balancing cortisol levels."
Supposedly, this can help reduce inflammation and stress hormones, improve sleep, boost energy, and lower pain. 

Okay. Well.

I understand that the human body produces quite a lot of electrical activity, and so does the earth. And I also know that for millennia, humans walked around barefoot. Simply being outside has benefits that include better mood and increased vitamin D production. So I had no problem with the idea of spending time outdoors without my shoes on.

Sedona, AZ
I started my earthing/grounding week in Sedona, Arizona, which, if you don't know, has quite an alternative culture that includes energy vortexes, crystals, healers, psychics, aura photography, and $17 dollar smoothies. (No joke, I paid almost $20 for a blueberry and kale smoothie.)

The first morning, my husband and I decided on a sunrise hike. I wore my shoes on the way up, because pointy rocks, but when we arrived at the top, I took them off and sat with my bare feet on the red Arizona sandstone. It was a nice experience, but it was probably equally nice for all the other people who had their shoes on.

Throughout the week, I also earthed at a river, in a garden, in a hot spring, and on my patio. (Frankly,  I was pretty proud of my diverse earthing locations.) The tougher part was determining if it improved my well-being. I was on vacation for much of the time, and it's tough to beat that for a mood booster.  So I don't know if I buy into earthing or not. But anything that gets me outside and connected to nature is a good thing. Plus, I tend to walk around barefoot a lot, anyway.

Oak Creek, AZ
So I think I'll keep at it, at least until the cold weather arrives, which makes this week's experiment a seasonal Take It.

Happy Friday the 13th! Don't walk under any ladders today!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Chocolate Wars

Image result for chocolateWelcome to the post in which I tell the (not at all) heartbreaking tale of how I bid a temporary farewell to one of the loves of my life: chocolate.

Keep your jelly beans, your saltwater taffy, your gummy worms. In my book, any candy that isn't chocolate really isn't worth it. And those others certainly don't have dark chocolate's benefits, which include heart-healthy flavanols, improved cholesterol profiles, and the release of mood-boosting endorphins. (Granted, some of those studies were observational, but chocolate has been spreading good vibes since the days of the Mayans, so it has definitely outlived the "health fad" stage.)

As they say, however, too much of a good thing... Well, I don't exactly know how the rest of the saying goes, but I'm sure it's cautionary in nature.

Image result for mayan chocolateI had noticed as of late that my chocolate consumption was on the increase. I won't say by how much, but I considered getting a t-shirt that reads "Chocolate is My Emotional Support Animal." What better time to test my resolve by committing to a chocolate-free week? As fate would have it (and I blame the Mayan gods for this one), the week coincided with me breaking a tooth and needing to have it pulled.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but I didn't really feel like eating much of anything those first few days, let alone chocolate. And after that short cold-turkey period, avoiding chocolate still wasn't too difficult. I had to make more conscious choices, such as lemon gelato and peanut butter protein bars, but I was relieved to find that I was able to wrestle my self-control away from chocolate. Without the broken tooth, though, who's to say? So maybe I should credit the Mayan gods instead of blaming them. (No, still blaming them.)

Now that the week is over, I'm back to eating chocolate again, but less of it and more mindfully. I knew going in that this would be a Leave It, because there's no way I'm giving up chocolate forever if I don't have to. But it was a good experiment, and I plan to repeat it from time to time, just to show those Mayan gods who's boss.

Check back on Friday for this week's bonus post! Until then, (chocolate) kisses to all!


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Stay Tuned!

Hello all,

I'm taking a short break from posting this week, but please come back to read two posts next week!