Whoa, where did summer go?

If you’re anything like me, you’re sitting there, looking at a long list of to-do’s, feeling like summer really ended fast. We’re in week 2 of school for most of MN, but it already feels like October! This cooler weather, along with the back-to-school schedule, has me really feeling the need to check off my list. I know I can’t make more hours in a day, so I have been looking for some tricks to get the most out of each hour that I’ve got!

Here is a list of tips and tricks to getting the most out of your day, whether you’re working at an office, at home, or just trying to squeeze in some enjoyment!

Be Present; Be Mindful

One way to make the most of every moment is to take the time to re-center, and to really experience each moment as it happens. I have found this to be far more difficult than it sounds. I’m always thinking about something, and the harder I try to clear my mind, the more somethings there seem to be! But I am finding that just by being aware, I am able to slow things down, and it helps me to better appreciate the things that I already have.

Magan Olson, Lead Clinical Supervisor, has mentioned before how mindfulness has helped her in her own live. Nissa Fougner, Director of Rehabilitative Therapies, has also discussed how focusing on mindfulness gives value to her daily life. I think they’re onto something! Being present in the moment can help all of us reach our full potential, instead of spending our time thinking about the shoulds, the coulds, the maybes, and the woulds. It’s so much more productive to make the most of what we already have and what we can already do!

Set Goals & Check Off that List!

Did you set a New Year’s resolution? Here’s the hard-hitting question – did you MAKE it? If not, you’re in good company, but you’ve also still got time to make some progress! Here’s another idea – don’t wait until New Year’s to make those goals. Looking at changes that I might want to make right now could be just the head-start that I need to feel a bit more confident by New Year’s Day.

Here’s a little gem from Mark Twain – finish the thing that you like the least, and the rest of your list doesn’t look so bad! Think about what your frogs are – maybe you need to eat them tomorrow morning, so that you can move on to something a little more tasty.

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Mark Twain

Have you had enough of lists, goals, and calendar items at work? Maybe you don’t want your home life to be quite so scheduled. That’s OK – you can still have some informal goals to work toward, in areas where you feel you need a bit more control. Maybe you need help with menu planning, or budgeting, or just need a reminder to set aside some time for yourself. Carving out a little bit of time each day for something that’s important to you can be a good reminder to take care of you, too!

And of course, if you or a loved one need help with some physical or mental health-related goals, contact your local HealthStar office to find out how we can help you get started and stay on track to meet them!

Re-think your schedule

Do you dread getting out of bed each morning, or do you greet the day with bright eyes and a bushy tail? Deep down, we all love to hate those bright eyes, but wouldn’t you also love to be more like that, instead of bleary eyed and bristle headed? I know this might sound super boring (#adulting), but it applies to all of us, from childhood to mid-life (with or without the crisis) to elder status: going to bed and waking up on the same schedule each day will help you feel more alert, along with offering many other health benefits.

Your body learns its expected rhythm, and your bodily functions follow that rhythm. Digestion slows when you’re on “sleep time,” and your organs know that they won’t be called into high gear until the next morning’s feast. Your mind can start to wind down when you see 30-minutes left until bedtime. Blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing can all ease into “night mode” when it’s time to rest.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you; snore, and you sleep alone.

Anthony Burgess

Yes, this means giving up on your old College Boy “up until dawn” routine. This might also mean no more binge-watching entire seasons on Netflix. But this definitely means that you will have better quality of sleep, better digestive patterns, more alert waking hours, and hopefully no more baggy saggy dark circles under those beautiful eyeballs. It’s a win-win, even though you might take a few days (instead of just one night) to watch that season of Game of Thrones.

Get Active!

Yes, we are a health-related company, but not everyone here is always the most physically healthy. I’m sure we could all do a bit more to get or keep ourselves in the shape we really want to be. And I know that around 2 pm every day, the desk jockeys among us are starting to doze off. I’ve seen it happen. The worst is when we’re all in a meeting together at that time – don’t go to those meetings.

Maybe you add a walk in the morning, or after lunch. Maybe some old-school sit-ups under your desk, or lunges in the hallway when no one’s looking. How about a few chair stretches, or a couple toe-touches? Or, if you have the ambition to add a full workout, more power to you; it’ll keep you fueled and help you squeeze a little more out of your day!

Are you wondering if HealthStar staff can help you or your loved ones with a plan to get more active? You bet we can! The folks who don’t sit at desks all day – the clinicians, the therapists, and the aides – those folks are MUCH better at getting active, and they have plenty of ideas to share!

What’s In Your Diet?

A better quality diet can help you focus. The right diet can give you the energy you need so that you can power through your day, instead of spending time in food coma-land. So what is the right diet? This one’s touchy – there’s science to say that eating snacks is better, or eating no snacks is better, or that you should intermittently fast, or maybe that you should eat more small meals, or eat more protein, or eat more fiber… the list goes on and on. But one thing that’s unanimous – more vegetables can’t hurt, but too much sugar can.

Check your shelves – do you have a bunch of crackers, cookies, and processed food in your pantry? If so, it might be time for a fresh start. Whole vegetables are on the “do” list of all the diets, whether you listen to the “don’t” side or not. And sugars should be used sparingly, so consider those packaged items a treat and not a staple. Other than this very basic advice: I am the pot, and anyone else that I talk to might be just another kettle, so I try not to say too much at all. Especially because my mouth is often full of the “don’t” list.

Do you have specialized dietary restrictions? Need some help figuring out what works for your specific needs? Contact HealthStar for some ideas – I promise you won’t get any feedback from me, it will be from our clinical staff. They might not write the blog posts, but they sure do know how to write specialized diets!

Start Something Small

Maybe you can’t finish the whole quilt, but you can sew a single square. Sometimes, just finding a place to start can mean you’ll get to the finish line. Little changes are much easier to implement than broad, sweeping changes. Maybe you’ll just go to bed 15-minutes earlier tonight, or get up 15-minutes earlier to do some deep breathing in the morning. Maybe you’ll add a vegetable at dinner, or skip dessert. Take a short walk, write down some of your thoughts, fears, and hopes. All of these things can help you re-focus on what matters the most to you, and filter out the stuff that doesn’t, so that you can really make the best use of the little time that you’ve got each day.

Have questions about mindfulness? Want to know more about modified diet and exercise for your health conditions? Need a few ideas on how you can get things moving on the right track? Check HealthStar out and see how we can work with you to get the most out of every day!

We can’t take all the credit. A special “thank you” to these pages for giving us a little extra help with this blog post:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/my-11-tips-on-how-to-make-the-most-of-each-day/

https://www.sleep.org/articles/sleep-and-productivity-at-work/

https://www.tuck.com/productivity-and-sleep

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2017/01/19/5-reasons-why-goal-setting-will-improve-your-focus/#7332866c534a

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25080035

https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-you-eat-affects-your-productivity

Better Health through Kindness

To me, May is a reminder of kindness. My favorite part of May has always been “May Day,” celebrated on May 1st. To celebrate, my family would create a little basket of goodies for each of our neighbors. Then, the fun: ding the neighbor’s doorbell, leave the basket, and RUN. This always felt amazing! Not only was I doing something fun with my mom and my sister, I also loved to imagine my surprised neighbors, overjoyed by finding a surprise of flowers, fruit, or cookies in a lovely basket on their doorstep. (I’m sure they knew it was us, but it felt like such a secret to me as a kid.)

To this day, I get excited about May Day, because it represents something wholesome, kind, and caring. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I still yearn for those happy little things that make my heart feel full to bursting, and this memory is one of those things.

As it turns out, that “heart full of joy” feeling you get from kind and generous activities does more than just make you happy – it’s also great for your health! (I’m sure you knew I’d get around to this eventually.) Check out these benefits of sharing a bit of kindness, and stick around for a few simple ideas to spread the warm, fuzzy feelings around! At the end of this post, you’ll also find a bunch of links that support the positive impact a little kindness can have on your health and well-being.

A kind heart is a healthy heart!

Studies have shown that when we complete an act of kindness, we receive a boost in the hormone Oxytocin. According to Dr. David Hamilton, “Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure).”

Is it enough of a reduction to negate the extra salt in my diet? Well, I’m no doctor, but I am an expert in wishful thinking. Maybe if I share those French fries, the kindness boost might just evaporate some of the “bad stuff” about the fries themselves. Plus, by sharing, I’m only eating half as many as I would have if I’d been selfish. That’s a win, win situation!


Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

Albert Schweitzer

Oxytocin has also been called a “love hormone” because it is produced by nursing moms and helps them bond (and fall absolutely in love) with their new babies. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that this same hormone helps us bond with others in social situations as well! It can help reduce anxiety and keep depression at bay. When you couple this benefit with the next, the cumulative effect is a great mood boost!

More endorphins? Yes, please!

Acts of kindness can also repay you in the form of serotonin release and endorphin production. Most of us have heard that serotonin “makes you feel good.” It is commonly believed that low serotonin levels can lead to depression, anxiety disorder, and other mood disorders. On the flip side, a little boost in serotonin supports feelings of happiness and enhances the “good mood” feeling.

Add the endorphin release, and you’ve really got a good thing going! Endorphins increase the feeling of well-being, help relieve stress, and even decrease pain in a similar way to opioid drugs, but without any of those nasty side-effects! Together, the increases in oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins create an unstoppable mood-and-body-boosting trio. The kindness effect combats everything from depression and anxiety to aches and pains. Speaking of aches and pains, that brings us to…

What about inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is of great interest to researchers as a potential underlying contributor to many illnesses. According to this study, “Regularly engaging in volunteering has a special way of getting ‘under the skin,’ resulting in what appears as a younger biological profile for inflammation.” Volunteering gave a greater health benefit, in terms of reduced overall inflammation, than other types of “productive activity,” possibly because of the health boost received based on the generosity and kindness involved in the act of volunteering.

Reducing inflammation may help the body avoid many kinds of health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, cancer – and these are just the big names. Everyday ailments like joint pain and arthritis can also seem lighter after an act of kindness. If we thought of kindness as medicine, how much more of it could we create?

Wow, kindness is strong stuff!

But wait – there’s more! In addition to all the benefits we’ve already discussed, let me throw in one more tidbit. This one is my favorite. Kindness begets kindness. It’s the ripple effect – an act of kindness can spread from one person to many, and it happens with so little effort!

Put kindness in action:

Maybe you buy a coffee for the guy behind you in the drive-through today. The person working the window gets to be a part of your kindness, which benefits him or her. The guy getting the free coffee doesn’t know you to thank you, so hopefully he’ll pass on the kindness to another stranger, or maybe even two. Each of those people, in turn, commit their own acts of kindness, spreading your single act to a positive health impact on a whole bunch of people, all for the cost of a single cup of coffee.


I like to pay for the coffee of the other folks behind me in line. It typically costs me less than $10, and makes the other people feel good, but more importantly, it makes me feel so good, and random acts of kindness change the world one person at a time.

Robert Kraft

It’s easy for me to see the benefit of a single act, but really, who does only one kind thing in a day? How many kindnesses can you spread around today? If we all take a few minutes to plan something generous and selfless, just imagine the impact we can have! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Our first day being kind

Everyone is new at something, some time. The good news is, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of dishing out kindness. A smile at a stranger, a compliment or a helping hand – these are all free. Here’s one of my secrets, and I don’t mind sharing it with you: lots of times, when I see someone is having a tough day, I will go out of my way to find something nice to say about that person.

Look at what he or she is wearing, the hairstyle or the accessories. There’s always something that took a little extra time to do, or something that maybe he’s insecure about or she wasn’t so sure if she could pull off that day. What if you’re the one to say “hey, I really like your scarf, where did you get it?” or “you look great today, what did you do differently?” Such a simple thing can really go a long way to making someone feel noticed.

A few more freebies

Donate your unwanted stuff to a women’s shelter or volunteer for an outreach organization in your area. These are fabulous causes, and of course, you’ll get the health benefit from the act of generosity. Help load someone’s groceries, open the door for a stranger, or help your neighbor with yard work if you happen to be outside at the same time.

And, of course, there’s that “pay for the guy behind me” trick in the drive-through. It’s a game of chance – he or she might be buying for the whole office! It sure does feel good though, when you can surprise someone with a free order; even though you don’t see the reaction, you know what you’d feel like if it happened to you!

We’re not done yet!

I’m lucky to work at HealthStar, because we have whole offices full of kindness. There is something to be said for working with people who truly care about people. I feel it every day, surrounded by nurses and support staff who would drop everything to help a person in need. But even for those who find it easy to spread kindness, a reminder might be needed. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own little world sometimes! Here are some of my favorite workplace examples of sharing kindness – maybe you can start small in your office today!

Share your lunch with someone who doesn’t have much that day – I know I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this one, and both are amazing. Give a few minutes of your time to a co-worker who needs a listening ear. Leave a “love note” to tell your co-workers what you admire most about them. Bring a treat to share, or if you’re on a health kick, bring some fruit or veggies and hummus. Recognize the contribution of a team member, or just send a little email to tell someone you’re thinking of her. And don’t forget the May Day basket – I’d love to see this tradition revitalized, in or out of the office setting!

Go forth and be kind!

I challenge you to come up with your own creative ways to spread kindness, and I promise you’ll enjoy these wonderful benefits to your own health and wellness in return. I think this is nature’s way of telling us that this is how we should be doing things – give to someone else, and in return, you get something that maybe even money can’t buy. A heart full of joy, and a body full of health!

And as always, contact HealthStar if you’re looking for staff who know how to put kindness into action to help you reach your health and wellness goals!

Please check out these links for more information:

Understanding Inflammation

The Science of Kindness

6 Science-Backed Ways Being Kind is Good for Your Health

How Sharing Kindness Can Make You Healthier, Happier

Why Random Acts of Kindness Matter