Picture of a plate with grilled chicken and grilled vegetables

Tips for a Healthier Cookout

When we think of summer grilling, we may automatically think of hot dogs and hamburgers. But there are healthier options that are perfect for the grill, and that your family and guests will find very tasty.

Simple Swaps Reduce Sodium

“Switch up your grilling routine to incorporate more fresh produce and lean protein,” said Patricia Salzer, RD, workplace wellness support coordinator at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. She recommended swapping out fatty meats for lean meats, poultry and fish.

“If you must have red meat, use fresh, rather than packaged, meats,” Pat advises. “If a food item keeps well in the fridge for days or weeks, it’s likely the sodium content is high. Sorry, hot dogs!”

Americans are eating 50 percent more sodium than they need, mostly from processed foods or food from restaurants. High sodium intake contributes to heart attack and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the United States.

A Healthier Cookout

“For a healthier cookout, make grilled veggies the highlight of your plate with a smaller portion of meat, fish or poultry,” suggests Salzer. “An easy way to do this is to use skewers, maximizing the produce and minimizing the meat you put on them.”

Grilled vegetables such as eggplant, asparagus, corn, avocados, jalapenos and romaine halves can replace the usual starchy side dishes at your cookout. Furthermore, instead of flavoring foods with high-fat dressings or salty seasonings and marinades, choose herbs and spices, vinegar and extra-virgin oils.

“Grill whole-wheat pizzas or bread to make crostini or grill bread, then rub a cut garlic clove into it and finish it with a rubbing of a tomato half,” says Salzer. “And for dessert, grill stone fruits such as peaches, apricots and nectarines, or try pineapple, figs, melon, and apples.”

For additional information on nutrition and a healthy diet, visit Excellusbcbs.com. Click on Health and Wellness along the top tool bar.

picture of grilled eggplant

Change Up That Grilling Menu!

Zucchini, potatoes, and even peaches are all amazing on that summertime grill. Sound strange to you lovers of hot dogs and hamburgers? Well, don’t knock it until you try it!

The garden and the grill have met, and newsflash – it’s delicious and good for you, too!

“Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke,” says Pat Salzer, RD, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield workplace wellness support coordinator. “It may even protect against certain types of cancers.”

Choose Wisely

The possibilities of adding fruits and vegetables into your diet – whether on the grill or not – are endless. One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, Pat said. Pat shared some helpful tips for choosing, storing and eating fruits and vegetables at their peak for optimal freshness and nutritional value.

Apricots

  • Look for: Plump; fairly firm; golden yellow or golden orange.
  • Avoid: Pale or greenish yellow; bruised or shriveled.
  • Store: In the refrigerator up to three weeks.
  • Use: As a snack or add to cereal.

Berries

  • Look for: Firm, plump.
  • Avoid: If the container is stained.
  • Store: Eat within a few days of purchase, keep refrigerated.
  •  Use: On cereal or yogurt; in a smoothie or fruit salad; with angel food cake.

Grapes

  • Look for: A plump bunch with grapes firmly attached to the stem.
  • Avoid: Those with a bleached look at the stem; soft or wrinkled grapes.
  • Store: In the refrigerator in a plastic bag.
  • Use: In chicken salad; wash and place in bowl in the refrigerator or freeze for a refreshing snack on a warm summer day.

Cantaloupe

  • Look for: Slightly soft stem end; sweet aroma; yellow or golden color.
  • Avoid: Green color; soft or sunken spots.
  • Store: On the counter for two or three days, then refrigerate in a plastic bag that is tightly sealed until you’re ready to cut. A ripening melon gives off gases that can spoil other produce.
  • Use: As a snack or in fruit, chicken or turkey salads; hollowed out as a bowl for fruit salad.

Honeydew

  • Look for: Waxy, cream-colored rind; stem should give to gentle pressure.
  • Avoid: If melon is too firm or too soft, green colored or has dark blemishes on the skin.
  • Store:  When uncut, keep on the counter top.  Once cut, keep it refrigerated. They don’t ripen once they are picked.
  • Use: As a snack or in fruit, chicken or turkey salads, or as fruit kabobs on small skewers with low-fat yogurt dip.

Watermelon

  • Look for: Heavy for its size; fragrant smelling; slightly soft at the blossom end. Thump; a low-pitched sound indicates a full, juicy interior.
  • Avoid: If it sloshes when shaken, it’s probably overripe.
  • Store: Uncut watermelon at room temperature for up to two weeks; when cut, refrigerate loosely wrapped.
  • Use: As a snack or in fruit, chicken or turkey salads; hollowed out as a bowl for fruit salad.

Peaches

  • Look for: Creamy or yellow color; smell for slight aroma; slightly soft when handled gently.
  • Avoid: Green, extra-hard or bruised flesh.
  • Store: Ripen by placing in a brown paper bag at room temperature; check daily for ripeness and eat when ripe or refrigerate for three to five days.
  • Use: As a topping for cereal or frozen yogurt; grill with meat; use as a salsa with meat or low-tat tortilla chips. Great on the grill (recipe: Peach and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese).

Sweet peppers

  • Look for: Firm, bright, glossy red, yellow or green color.
  • Avoid: Wrinkled skin.
  • Store: Unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
  • Use: As a snack with low-fat dip or in salads; roast and add to sandwiches; stir fry; stuff with cooked brown or wild rice and bake.

Tomatoes

  • Look for: Red or reddish orange with a sweet aroma; smooth, well-formed and firm, yet yields slightly to gentle pressure.  Tomatoes can also be yellow or green.
  • Avoid: Hard ones or with wrinkles, cracks, bruises or soft spots.
  • Store: Set in a bowl or ventilated paper bag to ripen, not on the window sill or in the refrigerator.
  • Use: Sliced or in sandwiches; in green or pasta salads; with sliced cucumbers, red onions, olives, feta cheese and low-fat dressing. Too many tomatoes? Make sauce!

Remember to rinse fruits and vegetables under cool running water just before eating. Use one cutting board for slicing fruits, vegetables and breads; another for raw meat, poultry and seafood.

Looking for a delicious summer recipe using fruits and vegetables?

Grilled Vegetable Salad

  • 8 ounces small whole mushrooms
  • 1 Vidalia onion, quartered
  • 2 zucchinis, sliced into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 peppers (green, red, yellow or orange), seeded and quartered
  • 1 eggplant, sliced into ½ inch pieces
  1. Place these or any of your favorite vegetables on a grill rack with the grill on medium high heat.
  2. Grill until slightly blackened.
  3. Mix the following in a large bowl: tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon mustard and a dash of salt and pepper.  Add grilled vegetables and toss gently to coat.

Apple Salad

  • 2 cups apple (diced)
  • 1 cup celery (diced)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup nuts
  • 2 tablespoons lite mayonnaise-type dressing (or mayonnaise)
  • 1/16 cup orange juice (1 Tablespoon)
  1. Mix orange juice with salad dressing or mayonnaise.
  2. Toss apples, celery, raisins and nuts with the dressing mixture.

Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture for dozens of other recipes including free access to how-to videos and online cookbooks.

Picture of a person sitting at a kitchen table working at a laptop.

Tips for Working From Home This Summer

Many employers have made it official: Their employees will be working from home this summer. Now that you know the plan for the next couple of months, here are some things to think about.

Take time off

Remember to use paid time off to enjoy time away from work. “You need to do this,” said Melissa Gardner, senior vice president at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “I encourage the folks on the team I lead to enjoy a long weekend or take a Wednesday off to break up the week.”

Set up your workspace

Maybe you’ve been making do with a corner of the kitchen table or the couch. With at least a couple of months ahead of you, it may be time to figure out if you have what you really need. Do you have a keyboard and mouse, a large enough monitor, a comfortable chair? Make your set up work for you.

Check out the video below for more tips on setting up an at-home workspace:

Get outside

Take advantage of being at home this summer. Work outside if you can or sit near an open window. Schedule breaks to sit in the sun for 5 minutes to get some Vitamin D.

Take a walk or run

Stretch your legs by walking or jogging around the neighborhood at lunch. Take a walk for meetings where you don’t need to be on screen. “Nobody will know if you are sweaty when you login to a meeting,” said Gardner.

Check out the video below for more tips on being physically active at home:

Assess your workday

Be mindful about taking breaks, stepping away from the computer and getting up to move about during the day. If you find this hard to do, schedule reminders on your phone or write a note by your computer that gets your attention.

Stop working

Set an end to your work day. Being home doesn’t mean you have to be on call 24/7.

Talk about what you need

Talk to your leader, colleagues, or anyone else to share what you are feeling and to find what is working for others. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you are handling your work/life balance.

Find replacements

If there are things you’ve been wishing to do once things open up, find a new way to do them now. “If the first thing you want to do is go out for a nice dinner, find a great restaurant that is offering takeout, set your table, light a candle and make it an experience now,” advises Gardner.

Stop apologizing

Stop worrying about your appearance when you’re on a video conference. Gardner reminds her team members that they are not alone in being unshaven, wearing glasses, not wearing makeup, or being on screen with a messy mop of hair. “Be comfortable with who you are and make no apologies,” she preaches.

Share what’s working for you

Let your colleagues know about your at-home success and failures and listen carefully to theirs.  “We’re all in this together,” said Gardner.

Picture of a woman lacing up her sneakers on a track

Virtual Races: Connect, Support, and Get Moving

As we take precautions and physically distance ourselves, people are finding new ways to stay connected, support their community, and get moving through virtual races and events. While traditional events that bring us together have been sidelined, virtual events allow runners, walkers and bikers to create their own course, often with their front steps as the starting point.

Kelsey Gratien, an avid runner from Erie County, is using virtual events to motivate herself and her family to get moving. “With traditional 5Ks cancelled for the foreseeable future, I’ve taken this opportunity to try some new things like running with my kids on their bikes and training for a fast mile,” said Kelsey. A long-time competitive runner, Kelsey is finding that virtual events still appeal to her competitive side. “I’ve done a couple virtual races of varying distances, and while certainly not the same, they’ve kept me motivated and appeased my competitive side for now,” she said.

Kelsey Gratien

Kelsey Gratien

More Freedom and Friendly Competition? Sign Me Up!

A virtual race is a race that you choose to complete wherever you like and at your own pace.

Benefits of virtual races include:

  • Freedom to run, walk, bike or climb when and where you wish. You’re also free to participate inside on a treadmill or stationary bike.
  • Complete when you’re ready. Unlike traditional races that are held on a set day, some virtual ones extend over periods of time like weeks or months.
  • Less social pressure that can come with a traditional race like worrying about times or where you are in the pack. You can feel more comfortable going at your own pace.
  • Friendly competition with family and friends near or far. A virtual race is a fun way to motivate and hold each other accountable when you can’t be together physically. For those looking for more than a friendly competition, many virtual events have websites where you can track your progress against others.
  • Anyone can join. A virtual race is perfect for all levels of runners, walkers or bikers. That makes virtual races a perfect activity for the whole family.
  • Support an important cause. Virtual races often benefit a charity or community organization.

Why We Need Movement, Especially Now

Movement is a critical part of wellbeing. Engaging in physical activity is a one of the most important ways to improve health. It has been shown to reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, positively impact most health conditions and help you get a good night’s sleep. In today’s world, many people are struggling to get enough physical activity, which can have an impact both physically and mentally. Remember, ‘motion is lotion’ to your joints, muscles….and even your brain, lungs, heart and gut!

“Participating in a walk or run actually improves your immune system. And getting others to walk or run with you, even virtually, spreads health to others,” said Brian Justice, D.C., a chiropractor and medical director at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Virtual Races in Upstate N.Y.

Ready to get started? Here are some upcoming or ongoing virtual events:

  • ROC Juneteenth – a 5K run/walk that supports the construction of Rochester’s Civil Rights Heritage Park.
    • When: now – June 19, 2020
  • Delaware Park 4th of July, Freedom Loop Challenge – Complete two or four loops of Delaware Park in support of the People Inc COVID-19 Relief Fund.
    • When: July 1 – July 5, 2020
  • Tour de Keuka* – a charity bike ride that benefits the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.
    • When: now – July 18, 2020
  • Fight For Air Climb, Buffalo* – a stair climb that benefits the American Lung Association.
    • When: June 11 – July 11, 2020
  • The Daemen Dash – a 1-mile run/walk that is free to join.
    • When: July 9 – July 23, 2020
  • 2020 Boilermaker* – run/walk a 15K or 5K in support of the Boilermaker organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
    • When: September 1 – September 13, 2020
  • Tour de Cure, Rochester* – ride, run or walk and support the American Diabetes Association.
    • When: October 3, 2020
  • City Walks – virtual city walks available any time through Rally Health for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield members with Healthy Rewards.

Did we miss any virtual events? Please share more in the comments!

Note: If you choose to run, walk, or bike outside, please continue to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on protecting yourself and avoid large groups or running close to each other. If you have a chronic health condition, be sure to talk with your doctor about the types of physical activity that are right for you.

*Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is a sponsor of this event.

Black and white photos

Juneteenth: A Celebration of Culture and Change That Can Bring Us Together

Growing up in Rochester, Theo Adams always celebrated Juneteenth with family and friends. “There have always been different community organizations that put on events and I usually attend those,” he said. “A couple years ago, one of my fraternity organizations held our own celebration in the community. People came over for a big cook out, there was face painting, and different community activists spoke,” said Theo.

Picture of Theo Adams

Theo Adams

Theo, who is a children’s behavioral health quality program specialist at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield said that for him, Juneteenth has continually been a time to celebrate culture and change. “It’s been about exposing people to different aspects of the culture and celebrating how things have changed for the better,” Theo said.

Despite the historical significance of Juneteenth, Theo said it has been largely under-celebrated by most in the past. “I don’t think people felt the need to celebrate like other historically significant days like the fourth of July,” said Theo.

The History of Juneteenth

The celebration of Juneteenth commemorates the abolition of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth, which takes place every year on June 19, remembers the day in 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Granger announced to enslaved individuals in Texas that they were freed. Many were unaware of the Emancipation Proclamation nearly three years earlier. Since that day, Juneteenth has been celebrated to honor African American freedom and achievement. It’s also a day to pause and reflect and to really assess where we are.

Picture of Joseph Searles

Joseph Searles

“Understanding the definition of racism and the history of slavery is vital as it sets context for where we are today,” said Joseph Searles, Corporate Diversity Relations Director at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “Although Juneteenth is celebrated and represents freedom for African Americans who were enslaved, it also marks a time for us to think about how far we have come and what more needs to be done as individuals, communities, and organizations to achieve a society that is fair and equitable for all and not just for some,” said Joseph.

“This year is different”

The celebration of Juneteenth this year is undoubtedly different for many, including Theo. “You can feel it, you can see it. This year is different,” he said. For Theo, Juneteenth remains a time to celebrate culture and change. “With everything going on, there is still a lot for people to celebrate. Let’s make sure everyone is a part of it. Now is the time for everybody to work together, support each other, ask questions to get a better understanding and help each other,” said Theo.

Keeping the Momentum Going

Theo, for one, is excited to see more people taking an interest in celebrating Juneteenth. “You can feel the change. This is probably the first year where I see my counterparts and friends look like they want to celebrate it more,” he said. “If anyone is going to celebrate it this year, we should be consistent and keep that momentum going for future years too.”

Run, Walk, Reflect

While large in-person celebrations will take a pause this year, many local Juneteenth events are going virtual. In Rochester, for example, Mayor Lovely Warren will raise the Juneteenth flag on June 19 and the fourth annual ROC Juneteenth 5K walk/run will be virtual.

In addition to raising awareness about the historic significant of Juneteenth, the ROC Juneteenth 5K is also a fundraiser for the creation of a Civil Rights Park, the first for Rochester and the state. A virtual event provides flexibility for participants who can walk or run any distance from anywhere, home or park. The walk/run can be done in one day or over the course of several days leading up to June 19, 2020.

Picture of Brian Justice

Brian Justice

Participating in the ROC Juneteenth 5K not only supports racial justice but also offers benefits to your health. “Supporting the Juneteenth initiative helps address the racial inequality so deeply embedded in our culture, and participating in the walk/run actually improves your immune system…very important in this COVID-19 environment. And getting others to walk/run with you, even virtually, spreads health…and both missions…to others,” said Brian Justice, D.C., a chiropractor and medical director at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

To learn more about the ROC Juneteenth 5K, visit juneteenth5k.itsyourrace.com

Here’s a list of local Juneteenth events to learn more:

Buffalo:

Rochester:

Central New York:

Southern Tier:

Utica/Rome/North Country:

Learn more about Juneteenth at www.juneteenth.com

Picture of a man and woman

Introvert, Extrovert… or Both. How Social Distancing Has Impacted Us All

Social Distancing is an Introvert’s Dream Come True Right?

Not exactly. Patrick McDaniels, a self-described introvert and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield program analyst, dug into this question. He interviewed three individuals to explore how introverts and extroverts are experiencing this extended period of physical distancing.

“I am most comfortable going for a walk with my dogs and wife, jumping into a home improvement project, putting my headphones on and exercising, or catching up with my tight-knit group of friends,” Patrick said.

Picture of a man and a woman each holding a dog

Patrick McDaniels with his wife Byrn, and their dogs Rosie (sweater) and Tucker.

Similarly, Paula Miller, who is an introvert and Excellus BCBS program analyst, says, “It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of people, it’s just that I expend energy when I’m around a lot of people.”

No one is 100% introverted or extroverted

Patrick explained that there are many misconceptions about introverts, such as that they are shy or don’t enjoying being in social situations. However, that just isn’t the case.

Angel Alvarez, a self-described “ambivert” and Excellus BCBS sales consultant says, “I kind of prefer smaller groups. However, in the same breath, I enjoy being a DJ outside of work and performing in front of crowds.”

Sady Fischer, on the other hand, describes herself as an extrovert. Sady, director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Excellus BCBS says, “I’m definitely energized through brainstorming and talking things out. It’s just part of my nature. But honestly, I also believe we all have a variety of different traits and that, over time, we’re able to flex and stretch, especially based on work experiences and even our personal experiences.”

Click on the links below to hear the full interviews from an introvert (Paula Miller), an ambivert (Angel Alvarez) and an extrovert (Sady Fischer) as they all uniquely navigate these challenging times.

Introvert: Paula Miller

Ambivert: Angel Alvarez

Extrovert: Sady Fischer

How do I find out what describes my personality best?

Curious about where you fall on the spectrum of introversion or extroversion? Here is an easy assessment tool you can access from Ideas.Ted.Com that can give you an idea based on a few short questions. Questions include: are you quiet and reflective or talkative and outgoing; are you most comfortable out in front of a group or in the background; and are you more productive in a quiet room or public place like a cafe? Learning about your own preferences can help you find better ways to cope with stress or approach problems.

Challenge Yourself to Overcome Biases

Learn to understand others and challenge your own biases. Do you have an unconscious preference for introverts or extroverts? For instance, is your circle of friends, family or co-workers made up of folks who are more like you?

Sady says that personality assessments and similar tools are helpful in terms of learning about broader groups of people and experiences. But, she also cautions:

“As with any grouping of people, it is easy to fall into the trap of making assumptions or stereotypes about people. All introverts and all extroverts are not the same. Plus, we all fall within a range of those two categorizations. Remember that everyone is an individual. The best way to learn about preferences in communication, learning, and work styles is to simply ask: What do you need?

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, check out  The Power of Introverts – TED Talk by Susan Cain.

Picture of a family on top of a mountain

Get Outdoors: Nature for Stress Management

Whether it’s hiking Bald Mountain, kayaking on First Lake, or just relaxing by the fire at their Old Forge camp, Eve Van de Wal, who resides in Oneida County, has found that being outdoors in nature does her mind and body good.

“Just a walk, a hike, or snowshoeing at a leisurely pace is amazing exercise,” she explained. “You don’t even feel like you are working out because it’s so beautiful and so enjoyable.”

There are many aspects of a healthy lifestyle that you can include and promote by simply stepping outside.

Get Busy Relaxing

For Eve, her husband, Dale, and their family, escaping into the Adirondacks to enjoy the benefits of nature has been a family affair. It started for Eve when she was a young girl born and raised in the Utica area.

The tradition of visiting the mountains, forests, and streams in the Adirondacks, with its vibrant blend of public and private lands, created wonderful memories for the Van de Wals as they enjoy all that nature has to offer.

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“There is never a time that we are bored or can’t find something to appreciate outside when we are there. We keep busy with the boat, fishing, walks, hikes… but it’s a busy that always feels relaxing,” she explained.

Nature for Stress Management

In fact, the Adirondack High Peaks and hundreds of miles of diverse waterways have had such a positive impact on Eve that she has also noticed an improvement to her physical health.

“I have high blood pressure and try to take care of myself, and stress management is part of it. I never feel like I am stressed, but as soon as I get in my car and head to Old Forge, I can feel a difference in my overall wellbeing with the tension relaxing in my neck and shoulders.” Eve explained. “The time I spend hiking or just relaxing outside with a book is something beneficial that I do for myself without even realizing it.”

Research supports exactly what Eve and her family have experienced, said Amanda Shanahan, RD, Employee Wellbeing Manager, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Contact with nature recharges our brain allowing us to better cope with the stresses of life,” Amanda said. “Our brains and bodies are often overtaxed with the everyday demands of modern life. Our brains don’t have to work the same way to pay attention to nature which allows time for restoration. The result can mean improved mood, creativity, concentration and stress relief.”

Other benefits of being outdoors:

Protect your bones – Sunlight hitting the skin eventually leads to the creation of vitamin D in your body.  Something we all need to protect us against osteoporosis and other diseases. Just 10 – 15 minutes a few times a week with the sun hitting your arms and legs is all that is needed.  If you’re going to be out longer, put on the sunscreen!

Age gracefully – Older people that get out every day stay healthy and functioning longer.  Studies have shown that those who have contact with nature have fewer complaints of aches and sleep issues along with other health-related problems.

Enjoying the Outdoors with Care

While busy enjoying the benefits of the sunshine and fresh air, Eve said she is always mindful that there are dangers to keep in mind. She said it’s important to follow certain preventive measures.

“It’s important to take steps to prevent diseases associated with the outdoors like Lyme Disease and skin cancer,” she said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, in 2018, New York state had close to 2,500 confirmed Lyme disease cases. Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted by an infected tick. When caught early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. The best way to fight tick-borne illnesses is by preventing them in the first place. Dr. Nicholas Massa, medical director at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, offers these simple, yet effective, tips to avoid getting this disease:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors
  • Use insect repellent
  • Check everyone, including pets, when you return, and quickly remove any ticks you find

Dr. Massa also warns of the dangers of skin cancer, the most common cancer of those in the United States. Keep these tips in mind provided by the Skin Cancer Foundation and CDC when outdoors:

  • Seek shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun
  • When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays
  • For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure
  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days

Nature is all around you

Eve and her family have created countless memories in the Adirondacks. What are your favorite outdoor locations in New York state? For some it may be the beautiful Letchworth State Park, renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East”  and one of the most scenically magnificent areas our area. Perhaps it’s Buttermilk Falls State Park, which takes its name from the foaming cascade formed by Buttermilk Creek as it flows down the steep valley side toward Cayuga Lake.

Comment below and share with us where nature takes you!

Picture of feet walking down the stairs

Get Up and Move!

Chances are that you are reading this article sitting down. Try standing up while you read the rest of this article.

Sitting down for longs periods of time can be harmful to your health in many ways, including being less active. Sitting can put us at risk for some serious stuff like heart disease or diabetes. This is even true for people who exercise regularly.

Moving more throughout the day will…

  • Decrease your chance of back pain
  • Reduce your risk of clots
  • Improve your mental health
  • Make you healthier and happier

As you go throughout your day, we encourage you to try to sit, stand, and move around at regular intervals by…

  • Sitting for 20 minutes
  • Standing for 8 minutes
  • Moving for 2 minutes

Incorporating these small changes will have a lasting effect on your overall health and your mental well-being.

Set a timer for 20 minutes to move. 20 minutes will go by a lot faster than you think.

Tip: There is a built in timer in Windows 10. Just type “Timer” on your start menu in your computer and it will pull it up. You can also find free timer and stopwatch apps for your smart phone in Google Play or the iPhone App store.

A man and a woman look at an ipad

Hidden Gems: Center shares the healing power of laughter

Most of us could use a good laugh right now. Fortunately, now you can enjoy comedy virtually thanks to the National Comedy Center.

The National Comedy Center, located in Jamestown, New York, is the nation’s official cultural institution and non-profit museum dedicated to presenting the vital story of comedy and preserving its heritage for future generations. Opened in August 2018, the in-person museum complex offers an unprecedented visitor experience using state-of-the-art technology, interactivity and personalization to create a true 21st Century museum environment. The museum was recently named the “Best New Museum in the Country” by USA Today, and named to Time magazine’s “World’s Greatest Places” in 2019.

Picture of the front of a building that is the National Comedy Center

Photo of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, N.Y.

Virtual Comedy

While the museum is temporarily closed as a COVID-19 precaution, you can now enjoy the comedy experience from the comfort of home. National Comedy Center Anywhere is a new online museum experience, featuring exclusive content directly from the interactive comedy exhibits.

Explore the story of comedy virtually with the artists themselves as your guides. National Comedy Center Anywhere has rare archival material never-before-seen outside of the Comedy Center Walls. The platform features a selection of free material with the option to upgrade to access more content from the museum.

The Details

  • Visitors can begin their National Comedy Center Anywhere experience now, by visiting ComedyCenter.org/Anywhere.
  • Location: 203 West Second Street, Jamestown, N.Y. 14701; (716) 484-2222
  • Hours: Temporarily closed to visitors. Typical hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Picture of a man lying in the grass listening to music

Mindfulness: Being Present is the Best Present to Give Yourself

With all of the uncertainty we have in the world at this time, it’s even more important to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is truly a state of mind. It’s being present in the moment, focusing on what is going on right now. You can apply mindfulness to all aspects of your life. Being mindful allows you to experience life as it’s happening, without excessive worry over the past or future. Try these tips for practicing mindfulness.

Mindful Eating

  • Avoid distractions such as reading or watching TV while you eat.
  • Focus on your food. Before you dig in, spend a couple of minutes noticing your food.  How does it look, how does it smell, how does it make you feel?
  • Take a bite. How does it taste and feel in your mouth?
  • Savor your bites – sometimes the first couple are the most satisfying. Rate your hunger level from 1 to 10 before you move on.
  • Give yourself permission to enjoy food.

Mindful Exercise

  • Begin by doing something you enjoy or maybe with someone you like.
  • Notice your surroundings. If you’re outside, look for something new. Maybe it’s the flowers or the activity of squirrels.
  • Focus on how good it feels to simply move and be active.
  • Pay attention – to the sounds around you and the breeze on your skin. If you’re lifting weights, pay attention to your form and try to perform each rep perfectly. If you’re doing yoga, concentrate on your breathing and holding a pose.

Mindful Relationships

  • Pay attention to others, listening closely to their words. Try to understand another’s point of view and delay your own reaction and judgment.

Mindful Mind

  • Take a few deep breaths when you are feeling stressed. Think about what is stressing you. Will it matter in five years? Is there anything you can do about it? If not, let it go!
  • For support, try this link https://blog.calm.com/take-a-deep-breath.