by Best Practices and Tools, Climate Change, Sustainability
You survived the holidays. But are you ready for the next big consumer-oriented holiday: Valentine’s Day?
I am a romantic at heart (I painted the heart painting above), but the tradition of celebrating love with chocolate, roses, and jewelry leaves a wake of environmental destruction that is not so romantic. Greenhouse gases, unfair labor practices, and waste are left in the wake of shipping roses from Ecuador, sourcing chocolate overseas, and mining for minerals. According to TerraPass, Americans spend about $2 billion on flowers for Valentine’s Day and purchase over 35 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate (75% of them sourced from Africa).
Over 80% of cut flowers are imported, creating a carbon footprint of over 20 million pounds of CO2. According to The Guardian, “The majority of those flowers will come from Colombia and Ecuador, two of the world’s leading producers. But these countries, and their flower industries specifically, have troubled records of abusing workers or hiring children, and your well-intentioned roses might go toward supporting some of these practices.”
Show the planet some love this Valentine’s Day and consider these five ideas for a greener day of love.
1. Make Your Own Card
Americans are expected to spend $1 billion on cards for Valentine’s Day, according to the Greeting Card Association. Be a rebel and make your own card. This idea came from my boyfriend, a third grade teacher, who has his students make cards for each other—no store bought cards allowed. Each is personalized by completing the statement, “I like (or admire) you because…” Get out some old cards, images from magazines, colored paper, glue, crayons/markers, and scissors, and make a card the old-fashioned way.
Image: Janice Sandeen
2. Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Nature makes us happier, healthier, and more creative, so this Valentine’s Day make time to get outside and take a walk on the wild side. Living in the Bay Area, it is easy to get outdoors and reconnect with nature and a date, or yourself. According to a study from Stanford access to natural areas is “vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.” Here are some of the best hikes in the Bay Area, according to KQED.
3. Be Present Instead of Buying a Present
Mindfulness isn’t just for robe-wearing monks; it can be a gift for your relationship as well. Instead of buying your sweetie a gift, consider spending the day together at a local gem, Spirit Rock Meditation Center. On February 17, Spirit Rock is offering Heart Practices for Couples, “An opportunity for couples to awaken the heart of joy and love together…Through partner meditations, verbal and nonverbal communication exercises and group sharing, couples will practice the art of intimacy and learn skills to deepen the shared journey.
4. Just Don’t Spend
We spend over $18 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day, with 20% of consumer’s buying jewelry. Mining for precious metals and gems for jewelry can have serious environmental and human rights implications. Here are a few gift ideas from the heart that don’t require major consumption:
- Give a massage (add a few drops of organic essential oil to sesame oil);
- Take some time to answer the New York Times’ 36 questions, known to cultivate love and intimacy;
- Make a homemade meal from local, fresh ingredients;
- Plan an activity to do together; or
- Write a love letter.
5. Eat Ethical Chocolate
If you can’t resist buying your sweetie something sweet, take a moment to pick an ethical brand. According to an article in Grist, for the world’s biggest chocolate makers, practices like child slave labor, rainforest demolition, and heavy reliance on GMOs are just a part of doing business. When it comes to chocolate, it is not so simple as looking for organic or fair trade label. A great resource is Rainforest Alliance, which certifies chocolate that’s better for the environment and that ensures cocoa farmers have good living and working conditions. Grist recommends a visit to San Francisco-based Dandelion Chocolate, which exemplifies an ethical brand.
Chocolate is also fueling climate change. The HuffPost recently stressed, “Your afternoon chocolate bar may be fueling climate change, destroying protected forests and threatening elephants, chimpanzees and hippos in West Africa, research suggests.” Deforestation-linked cocoa has entered the supply chains of some of the biggest players in the chocolate industry; A report from Mighty Earth, Chocolate’s Dark Secret, found that a large amount of the cocoa used in chocolate produced by Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Godiva, and other major chocolate companies was grown illegally in dwindling national parks and reserves in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
The good news is that 22 major chocolate companies recently made a promise to stop destroying forests in West Africa, a huge step to save our planet’s rainforest. But this is just the start. Please consider signing the petition to tell Cadbury and Ferrero to commit to no new deforestation for cocoa worldwide.
February is National Haiku Writing month and once again we are hosting a Haiku Competition!
Haiku poems have been an important part of Japanese art dating to the seventh century. This form of poetry, consisting of 17 syllables arranged in three lines of 5,7, and 5 syllables respectively are meant to capture an inspiring moment or a thoughtful reflection.
Write about Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, an experience you’ve had here, a place on the property, a feeling, a moment…
- Post your Haiku on your Instagram or Facebook page,
- Tag us and use the hashtag #OsmosisHaikuContest!
- Be sure to follow us to see posts of Haiku’s submitted.
- Tag your friends. If they follow us, you get bonus consideration!
The runner-up will receive a Cedar Enzyme Bath for Two. We look forward to your poems!
No purchase necessary to enter. Each entry must be a separate post. Entrants may only submit one (1) unique post per day during the entry period. Winner’s account cannot be set to private. Employees of Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) and household members of each such employee are not eligible. The contest will go through Feb. 28, 2018. Winners will be announced Friday, March 2, 2018, via. Facebook and Instagram. Winners will also be announced in March mid-month newsletter.
While massage is becoming more recognized for its therapeutic benefits, any kind of touch including a simple handshake, congratulatory pat on the back, or a warm-hearted hug has the power to transform you both physically and emotionally. Touch triggers the hypothalamus to produce oxytocin, both released into the bloodstream and stored in the brain. This hormone has a range of physiological functions, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, increasing pain tolerance and boosting your mood. There have been a range of studies, each with a different population including infants, cancer patients, mental health patients, the elderly, and pregnant women, all of which point to the same conclusion:
Touch not only makes you feel better, it is vital to our emotional and physical health.
Science-Based Benefits of Touch
Edmond Ross found that physical touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, linked to feelings of reward and compassion. His studies show that simple touch triggers the release of oxytocin, known as the “love hormone.” This fosters greater trust between individuals and builds stronger teams of people working together. Touch is the foundation for connection and community.
Studies at the Touch Research Institute found that prenatal massage lowers stress hormones and increases serotonin and dopamine, in pregnant women, reducing the incidence of intra-uterine artery resistance, making it easier to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the baby. This means less premature deliveries, and with healthier birth weights. The women in this study also experienced shorter delivery times, and with fewer complications.
Infants and Touch
And how does loving touch affect the babies? A study carried out by Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital measured the brain responses of 125 infants and showed that a baby’s earliest experiences of touch have lasting effects on the way the young brains respond to gentle touch. Preemies that spent more time in gentle contact with their parents and healthcare providers, had a stronger brain response to touch than those who were in incubators. Preterm babies who receive positive supportive touch, such as skin-to-skin care by parents, have brain response to touch similar to those babies who experienced an entire pregnancy inside mother’s womb.
Dr. Ruth Feldman carried out a 10-year study which shows the lifetime impacts of physical contact with preterm babies. “In this decade-long study, we showed for the first time that providing maternal-newborn skin-to-skin contact to premature infants in the neonatal period improves children’s functioning 10 years later…” said Dr. Feldman. Compared against standard incubator care, the baby held skin-to-skin against the chest of an adult, showed better cognitive and executive skills in repeated testing from 6 months to 10 years of age, such as more regular sleep patterns, better neuroendocrine response to stress, a mature functioning of the nervous system, and better overall cognitive performance.
Hospice Patients and Touch
Kutner’s research on the effects of touch on 380 hospice patients, half of which received regularly scheduled massage and half of which received a simple untrained touch from hospice volunteers, gave us evidence that while massage is extremely beneficial, untrained touch is also helpful. Both the patients who received massage and those who received untrained touch all reported decrease in pain, and elevated mood and quality of life. The patients who received massage reported those results more immediately than those who received untrained touch, showing us that all is helpful.
Dr. Tiffany Field, Director of Research at the University of Miami Medical School says,”Moderate pressure massage has a huge variety of benefits because it stimulates the vagus nerve, which has branches all over your body, so for example, it slows the heart rate and relaxes your nervous system.” This is huge. The vagus nerve interfaces with our parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs and digestive tract, so can lower blood pressure and reduce digestive or respiratory stress.
Mental Health and Touch
Several studies show that touch therapy can be helpful to people who suffer from mental health issues such as eating disorders, anxiety or depression, or physical pain. Why? Massage can reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol while simultaneously increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that fights depression and pain. Serotonin is a natural way to reduce physical discomfort and uplift the mood.
Six Facts Why Simple Touch or Professional Massage will Benefit your Well-Being:
- Neuroscientists now know that physical touch is processed by the reward center in the central nervous system, and is thus vital to your emotional health.
- Psychologists explain that simple touch stimulates receptors under the skin that lower cortisol levels, reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.
- The Thymus gland, which regulates your body’s production of white blood cells, strengthening the body’s immune system and helping to maintain optimal health is stimulated through touch.
- The Hippocampus, an area of the brain that is central to memory, is also stimulated.
- Touch can, of course, rub away tension, and when administered by a trained massage therapist, can increase the range of motion and circulation while reducing pain or spasm.
- Finally, all touch including professional massage releases endorphins in the body to reduce pain and elevate mood.
Healing touch has become a widely respected way to prevent and ease health issues. Doctors of all kinds recommend massage to their patients to ease both emotional and physical symptoms of dis-ease.
Raizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Spa Services Manager at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California. She has been practicing massage for over 25 years and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years. Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering training in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa. For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on upcoming training in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California. Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.
Over 30 years serving West Sonoma County, Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary’s Cedar Enzyme Bath continues to remain a favorite among many. Do you ever wonder why people continue to come back, again and again, to get buried up to their neck in cedar and rice bran? Osmosis guests have reported experiencing a wide range of wellness and health benefits over the years. The following are the top five most celebrated.
Reduced Tension and Stress
For centuries, heat has been used as a simple and effective way to manage tension and stress. Upon entering the bath you will quickly feel the warmth that is generated by biological fermentation, mimicking your body’s’ own natural metabolic processes. You may perspire, as you feel this extraordinary heat radiate through your body helping your muscle fibers to loosen and relax while reducing muscle tension and pain.
Breaks Down Lactic Acid in Sore Muscles
Overworked muscles and a buildup of lactic acid are what causes the pain associated with exercising. Heat helps your muscles to relax and encourages blood flow to the area which can reduce pain. Increasing blood flow to sore muscles helps in eliminating lactic acid waste buildup which contributes to pain.
Beautifies the Skin
Rice bran, a key ingredient in the Cedar Enzyme Bath, is high in enzymes and has a wonderful deep-moisturizing capability. This is due in part to its combination of vitamin E and fatty acids. Vitamin E improves the functioning of the endocrine system by balancing the release of hormones in the body. Beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, is also found in rice bran in significant amounts, which promotes the health and vitality of your skin. Rice bran also adds revitalizing nutrients to your body’s largest and most sensitive organ.
Detoxification and Improved Digestion
The tea and bath work together to metabolize waste, cleanse organs and facilitate absorption of nutrients. Enzymes are the catalytic force in all change in the living tissue. They are mostly known to help digestion, but they also conduct a whole symphony of functions from the exchange of oxygen from the lining of the lungs into the bloodstream and the whole movement of energy through your nervous system.
Heat causes the blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow and removes toxins from cells. Increased blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients to the area. The bath dilates the cardiovascular system and increases blood flow to even the smallest capillaries.
If you have not experienced the Cedar Enzyme Bath for yourself, it is time to book a visit now! You can improve your health as well as your skin while reducing overall stress. Doesn’t get much better than that. This unique experience is also a great way to prepare your body for a relaxing massage. Osmosis Day Spa offers numerous packages to take advantage of the full experience! Convenient online booking can be found at the following link www.osmosis.com
By Michael Alliger, Master Pruner
With the softening of the light and cooling of temperatures comes a time for an out-breath in the garden. Autumn at Osmosis brings a relaxing sigh after the hurried intensity of summer. In the calm expanse of golden light, we look back to what has been: the surprises, accomplishments, and challenges; and we look ahead to the opportunities that winter rains will offer.
Here at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Sonoma County, California, Spring was enlivened by deep and late rains. Trees especially came out with a robust vigor. This was an expectation gratefully rewarded. The surprise was that this vigor did not translate into increased health throughout a very hot summer. Many trees seemed inexplicably weaker as the season progressed. Autumn, therefore, brings welcome relief for the garden as well as the gardeners.
Bamboo’s Falling Leaves
Though plant growth has slowed, the rain of falling leaves keeps gardeners busy raking. Raking of the paths and grounds is expected but benches, lanterns, stones and the plants themselves must be kept as pristine as possible. It’s interesting to observe that broadleaf evergreen trees (such as bays), as well as conifers, are losing countless leaves at this time. Bamboo, an evergreen, is dropping leaves at a surprising rate. For good hygiene and appearance groves must be raked and mulched. Pines, redwoods, and hinokis all display an inner browning of foliage that may drop eventually with winter storms if not cleaned by garden staff.
Lack of Rain
Anticipation of winter may stir in us the realization of how long the garden has gone without rain. Lack of rain combined with extremely low atmospheric humidity makes this the driest time of the year for plants. It’s important that irrigation be regularly monitored for accurate operation and that container plants be watered assiduously sometimes being dunked in large tubs or troughs where possible. Again in anticipation of winter rains the garden is freshly mulched with nutrient rich amendment. When percolated in by rain a mulch of composted humus and manure not only enriches to plant growth but helps keep the soil alive with microbes, insects and all manner of healthful fungi.
Fall Pruning of Evergreens
Garden pruning in the fall hasn’t the pace of summer yet opportunities for care and improvement abound. In Japanese-inspired gardens like Osmosis, many trees are pruned for human scale. This reduction often stimulates a reaction growth which must be addressed. As this growth slows in summer water sprouts on plum, crabapple and persimmon, for example, can be removed or cut back. On Magnolia, heavy summer growth is also removed in preparation for early winter flowering. In addition, fruit tress such as pear, apple and apricot may be thinned and cut back. At Osmosis, we have a large naturalized apple tree growing along the bank of Salmon Creek which is pruned as an ornamental, not to interfere with a vigorous fruit production.
Evergreens are also pruned at this time. Pines are thinned, shaped and cleaned of old needles. The same can be done with various Chamaecyparis.
The thinning of bamboo groves not only improves appearance by removing dead, dying, and spindly culms but also can help (along with fertilizing) to increase the size of next year’s shoots for added drama. Similarly, drifts of Nandina may be thinned to display their vertical canes from which they get their common name “sacred bamboo”, though not a true bamboo.
Yes, in gardening there is the Zen moment of NOW, but we are also keeping an eye on what has been and what will be. Winter will bring an ideal opportunity for planting and transplanting. Autumn is the time to be looking ahead to the possibility of these, often dramatic, adjustments.
Learn More about pruning Nandina in the following video! Get ready to be inspired!