My wife and I are huge fans of the Blue Zone initiative! We both feel our lifestyles have improved a lot in the short amount of time we’ve been working our Blue Zone pledges. Our biggest success so far is we changed our eating habits dramatically just by eating smaller portions and eating healthier food. It’s amazing how quickly we started to feel the positive impact on our health both physically and mentally by making some changes in our daily eating habits. The changes are not that complicated but as we all know it is so easy to return to old habits, which we still do on occasion but definitely with less frequency. We found that doing this pledge together and keeping each other honest has helped us to stay committed to eating healthier and fighting old habits.

So here are some of the changes we made in our kitchen that have been working for us. Eating smaller portions was the first hurdle we tackled. We have four daughters and are almost empty nesters but we are so use to making large meals on a regular basis that the habit is imprinted in our brains. We only have one at home now but we were still buying groceries and making large meals as if all four still lived at home, which was a hard habit to break when we have been doing this for years! That being the situation, we set some goals to buy fewer groceries and make smaller meals. So far we have stayed committed to this goal and saving some money to boot!

The other change we made in the kitchen was to pre-plate the food instead of putting all the food right in the center of the dinner table, which again is an old habit from the big family meals. This was an easy change to make and right away noticed the difference in how much we ate. The other benefit of not consuming large meals at night is we get a better night’s rest and better prepared to tackle a new day.

The other goal we set was to eat healthier foods, which has been a bigger challenge but making progress. Again, old habits took us to the same grocery store, same aisles, same foods, preparing the same meals, etc. I’m sure I could do this in my sleep! It’s amazing how hard it is to break out of this rut and try something different and better. Hard as it was, we have been exploring other stores that offer healthier foods and having some fun with it, especially on Sundays when the store is handing out samples!

For my wife and I, adopting the Blue Zone pledge has helped not only improve our quality of life, but it’s renewed our commitment to leading healthy lives.

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The one area I am working toward with the Blue Zones experience is sleep. I have been able to get more sleep each night, although not quite yet at the seven to nine hours per night. Through this process I realized that my quality of sleep isn’t as good as it could be. My mom uses essential oils and suggested I try it out as a way to get better sleep. I have been putting a couple drops of lavender essential oil on my wrists before bed each night — It actually works! Since using it I have been able to get a better quality of sleep each night.

Many people may not know this, but an easy and powerful way to relax and decompress is through the use of essential oils. They are the very life source of plants, extracted from various parts of the plant: the flowers, leaves, stalks, stems, sap, wood, bark, nuts, or berries. Good essential oils are very concentrated, so they are only used in dilution and in small quantities.

The aromas from essential oils can decrease stress levels; improving clarity and an overall sense of well-being. Lavender is known for its relaxation purposes by creating a soothing, calming effect. If you don’t like the smell of lavender, other oils known to help relaxation includes: chamomile, marjoram, sage and sandalwood.

One way to use essential oils for better sleep is to place a drop of oil on your pillow or add a drop to a cotton ball and slip it inside your pillow case. Place a drop on each end of the pillow, that way, no matter which way you toss or turn, you will always be able to get a whiff of the lavender.

Be sure to only use a few drops, over use of any oil can sometimes produce the opposite effect and can stimulate certain areas of the brain — we don’t want that to happen!