Inside the Science Between Sunlight and Happiness

sunlight and happinessDo you feel yourself craving sunlight during the winter? With shorter days and longer nights, it’s common if you work indoors to hardly see the sun during the day, perhaps even less than an hour. We’ve been so excited for Daylight Savings to kick in today, giving us a bit more time at night to enjoy the bright, shining outdoor light that we crave.

But what’s the science behind this necessity? There must be an inherent reason why we get so excited for the hours to shift and more sunlight to present itself. Our curiosity got the best of us, and we set out to figure it out.

Turns out, there’s some interesting biology behind our need for light, and it has to do with the amount of melatonin and serotonin our body secretes in response to sunlight. Melatonin—the hormone that controls sleep—decreases when the sun rises in the morning, allowing us to wake up gradually. At the same time, when sunlight hits our eyes, serotonin levels increase. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls wakefulness and, appropriately, happiness. [Source: How Stuff Works]

Essentially, this hormone and neurotransmitter act inversely throughout the day to bring us from science behind sunlight and happinesssleepiness to alertness and back again. Because serotonin controls both wakefulness and happiness, the two work together to explain the sun’s positive effects.

As Daylight Savings starts today and the weather warms throughout the upcoming spring season, keep in mind your need for sunlight. It can truly put you in a better mood and keep you productive the whole day through! Exercising outdoors rather than at the gym, eating lunch on a park bench or going for a quick stroll to reset in the middle of the day can do wonders for your happiness… all because of the sun!

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Transition Your Feet from Winter to Spring

transition feet from winter to springWinter weather can wreak some serious havoc on your feet. Dry air mixed with wet conditions and six months of stuffing your toes into snow boots don’t create the healthiest atmosphere for your hard-working extremities.

Spring is on its way, and your feet may not be in the happiest of shape. Dry, rough skin on your soles is incredibly common in the winter. While it’s easy to hide underneath socks and tall boots during the colder seasons, the emergence of spring also means bare feet, supportive sandals and cute, open-toed wedges that easily expose all of your winter woes.

diy-raspberry-lime-sugar-scrub-1-500x441Luckily, there are some easy ways to prep your feet for spring that don’t take much money or time. Treating yourself to an early spring, at-home spa day is one of the best ways to do it! DIY foot scrubs are the perfect way to slough dead skin off of your feet, and often can be made from ingredients you already have lying around your home. Try this DIY Raspberry Lime version or this at-home coffee and salt edition.

Soaking your feet can also work wonders. Using a large bowl or footbath with some warm water and a variety of kitchen-ready ingredients can easily soften your feet and make you feel wonderfully relaxed. We love this olive oil and cinnamon combo, guaranteed to soften winter-worn skin.

Another easy tip? Experiment with moisturizers. The ones at the drug store can work wonders, or you can make your own if you feel so inclined. Lather moisturizer on before bed, put on a nice pair of socks, and wake up with refreshed, happy toes.

Your feet support you the whole day through, and we truly believe that they should be taken care of (and pampered!). Have you tried any of these remedies? How do you take care of your feet? We’d love to hear your ideas!

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Colorful, Crunchy Spring Produce is on its Way!

Spring Vegetable RecipesThe first day of spring is just around the corner (only 12 days away… not that we’re counting), and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Temperatures will begin warming up, the snow will start melting, and our large winter coats will be stored away for a long slumber.

Eating locally and in-season is important to us, and one thing we’re so looking forward to in the springtime is the availability of new, fresh fruits and veggies! While we do adore our squash, potatoes and cauliflower, we’re certainly ready to transition to the green, fresh, colorful veggies that come along with springtime weather.

From the subtle flavor of honeydew to the crunch of green asparagus in our salads, the flavor combinations are endless when you focus on spring produce. We’ve compiled a couple recipes we’re dying to try, complete with in-season, early-spring choices like endives, radishes, peas and honeydew. Try them out this week and let us know how it goes!

1) Asparagus: Frittata with Asparagus, Tomato and Fontina
2) Peas: Spring Tarts with Asparagus, Peas and Mint
3) Endives: Raspberry Asparagus Endives with Candied Pecans
4) Radishes: Sugar Snap Salad with Radishes
5) Snap Peas: Pad Thai with Snap Peas
6) Honeydew: Minty Cucumber Honeydew Smoothie

What are your favorite seasonal spring vegetables? Let us know in the comments below! 

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We’re Falling in Love with Vibrant Shoes!

Chocolat Blu Spring StylesOne of our greatest beliefs here at PlanetShoes is that a great pair of shoes can truly make the outfit. We love how shoes can make your look that much more special; with interesting buckles or design features, a comfort footbed to keep you smiling all day long, or some wonderful pops of color to make that black dress shine, shoes are a key part of making your daily wear exciting and unique.

A great pair of shoes truly can make you happy… and that’s how we’re currently feeling about Chocolat Blu’s spring styles. The New York City-based brand truly understands making color look classy, and has incorporated bright springtime tones like teals, purples and yellows into their already-awesome wedges and flats. We can just imagine walking by this boutique on the snowy streets of NYC and being pulled into the store due to the vibrant shoes in the storefront.

Whether you love to add a little height to your day with wedges and heels or prefer the flat route, Chocolat Blu has a variety of styles perfect for your style and comfort level. On top of this, our customers rave about how comfortable these shoes are… so even if you aren’t used to wearing heels, we suggest trying a pair.

More Fun Styles
Chocolat Blu WebChocolat Blu CamChocolat Blu CarissaChocolat Blu Metalica

 

 

 

What are your favorite Chocolat Blu styles? We’d love to hear your faves!

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How to Pick the Perfect Hiking Boots for a March Adventure

hiking bootsMarch is truly a great time for a winter hike. For us up here in New England, there will still be snow hanging around, making the hills a beautiful winter wonderland. In warmer climates around the country, March is the perfect temperature to get out and get your sweat on without overheating. It’s a wonderful time to take in the scenery, enjoy the natural world and get a little exercise simultaneously.

There’s nothing that can make or break a hike like the shoes you wear. Muddy terrain without waterproof boots can make for cold, uncomfortable feet. On the other hand, warm temperatures and extreme cold-weather boots don’t mix very well, leading to sweaty, unhappy toes. Neither sounds ideal!

What type of boots are right for you?
One big question to ask yourself is how intense your hiking is going to get. If you’re looking to scale mountains and boulders, your needs are a lot different than those climbing their nearby hills for a great view of the city they call home. That said, selecting boots that are appropriate to the type of hiking you wish to do is a vital part of choosing the proper shoes.

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 4.00.53 PMTrail Shoes
If you’re hiking in a fairly dry, warmer area, trail shoes will offer you the support you need. These are typically low-cut and work best if you’re carrying a light daypack and encountering minimal rocks. Many trail-runners utilize these shoes on their daily trail runs.

Hiking Boots
Available in both mid and high cuts, these boots are typically waterproof. Best for hiking terrain that could be wet, muddy and rocky, these boots are meant to keep your feet dry and supported. Great for either beginners or advanced hikers, these shoes give you the confidence to explore uncharted terrain.

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 4.02.05 PMBackpacking or Mountain-Climbing Boots
For more intense hiking aficionados, these shoes typically have high arch and ankle support, completely waterproof outsoles and enough padding to support you for a multi-day hike. These extremely strong boots are essential to longer, more intense adventures. As a warning, these may take quite a while to break in due to their durability. 

How do you find the best fit?
Be sure to try on and test out hiking shoes before you purchase them (or take advantage of sites with free returns). Walk around the house and be sure your heel isn’t slipping, the arch support feels adequate, and your toes aren’t sliding to the front of the boot or pinching. Try on with the socks you’ll be wearing on the hike (if it’s super cold and you’ll be wearing thick, wool socks, for example, you’ll want to test them out with those same socks). Walking up and down a flight of stairs can help simulate steep or hilly terrain.

What do you look for in hiking shoes? We all definitely have our own favorite choices, as finding the right pair is individual to your purpose and fit preferences. We’d love to hear about your favorites! Let us know in the comments below. :)

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Stay Active All Day Long!

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 2.57.17 PMDo you find yourself sitting for the majority of the day? With so much of our work moved to computers nowadays, many people work at jobs that don’t require much movement. As you may have seen, many studies have recently come out exposing the negative effects of this sedentary lifestyle. From sitting in the car on your way to and from work to sitting at a desk all day, all this chair-time certainly isn’t doing wonders for your health.

What is a worker to do? While some may have budgets large enough to spring for a brand new treadmill desk, most do not. Luckily, there are some small, easy ways to add a little movement to your day… even when it’s cold out!

We’ve broken our ideas down into three categories: strength, cardio and core. Filled with both small, daily changes and official personal-trainer-designed workouts, you can pick and choose exercises depending on what your goals may be. Go directly to the section you want to work on, and let us know how it goes!

Strength
shutterstock_59208547Small, subtle movements can help build muscle in ways you never thought possible, especially if you are consistent with it. Standing at the printer? Do some calf raises! Seated at your desk? Leg raises will work. Do fifteen reps at a time, take a one-minute break, and then do a couple more sets. Perform these routines a couple times a day and you’ll easily feel more toned by the end of the month. Another strength-training tip? Use office supplies as weights! Those heavier, old-school staplers weigh a couple pounds, so lifting them up and doing a couple arm presses or bicep curls could help you feel a little more active. Utilize a stack of notebooks or reams of paper to do some squats, deadlifts or to add weight to your calf raises. If you’re looking for something a bit more regimented for your lunch break, try out this bodyweight workout—it’s designed to be totally silent, so no one will even notice you upping your exercise ante!

Cardio
Getting your heart rate up during the day is a great way to negate the undesirable effects of sitting. Small changes—like taking the stairs, doing a couple sets of high knees between emails, or walking to a coworker’s desk rather than sending a Skype message—can all add up to do wonders for your health. If you need a little more than that, try this cardio workout (or this one, if you don’t mind going outside for a bit) from Pumps and Iron, no equipment needed. At only thirty minutes, you can do this in an empty office space during your lunch break. Just be sure to bring some face wash into work so you feel fresh the whole day through!

Core
quick-bodyweight-ab-workout-5Engaging your core is one of the easiest ways to get in a little exercise at work, as you can easily perform many different exercises from your desk. Focusing on improving your posture is one easy way to engage your core and improve your back strength simultaneously. Sit up straight, with your feet flat on the floor, being sure your back is flat and your core is engaged. Not slouching can do wonders for your strength and health! An increasingly intense way to engage the abs is to take a couple minutes a few times a day to tense your stomach muscles for 15 seconds, release, and repeat 15 times. You may even feel sore by the day’s end! Looking for a longer core workout to do at lunch? Try this ab workout, designed to engage the core with no equipment needed.

How do you stay moving if most of your day is spent seated? How do you keep active? Let us know in the comments below!

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