spa 

There’s nothing like an afternoon at the spa. A 60-minute body massage, hot stones along the spine, cups of warm, herbal tea and a chance to forget every responsibility in your life—breathe in, breathe out, that’s all you need to do. Spa days enliven us, recharge us and cleanse us through and through. But, when we can’t afford to take the time or money to indulge in spa treatments on a regular basis, we can still reap the benefits in our own homes. Learn five essential take-home tips from the spa to help you live longer, healthier and happier.

1) Hydrate. Our bodies lose about 2 to 3 quarts of water a day just by doing their normal housekeeping: Carrying nutrients across our cells, moving waste out of the cells and regulating the body’s temperature, all in the form of sneezing, breathing, sweating, urinating and defecating. In keeping up with the massive water loss we experience on a daily basis, we have to stay hydrated. The most common rule of thumb is to drink 8 glasses of water a day, but some experts say you should be drinking up to a gallon a day—and even more if you exercise regularly. How can you tell if you’re getting enough water without overdoing it? The University of Washington’s Health Departmenthas the following tips for knowing when enough is enough:

    • Have a full glass of water immediately upon rising.
    • Drink regularly throughout the day instead of large “gulps” of water only a few times.
    • Gauge your levels of hydration by the color or your urine. Clear or light green means you’re hydrated, whereas darker yellow shades mean you need to sip more.
    • If you’re taking medications on a daily basis, take extra effort to stay hydrated—our bodies need more water for the liver and kidneys to process and metabolize medicines.

    2) Relax. Take away the Swedish massage or the hot stones from your spa excursion, and you still have a highly effective therapy—relaxation. Picture it: You’re lying on a warm, padded massage table, breathing in soothing essential oils, while your muscles slowly loosen as you listen to Enya quietly crooning from some hidden boom box. What you have here is a situation of deep, undisturbed relaxation. According to the Mayo Clinic, the simple act of relaxing increases your health by reducing your stress, on both physical and mental levels. Relaxation does this by: Slowing the heart rate; lowering your blood pressure; slowing and deepening your breath; increasing blood flow to organs, muscles and the brain; and reducing muscle tension. Recreate the spa setup at home—sans massage, mind you—and you’ll have a free therapy that you can keep up with every weekend.

      3) Read. Waiting for your massage therapist to finish up with her previous client, you recline in peace with a book of poems or a yoga magazine laid out for the customers in the spa waiting room. Unlike other waiting rooms, like the doctor’s office, the spa is quiet, serene, slightly dark and free of electronic buzz (i.e. the TV). Here, you can settle into your head in peace and enjoy the health practice of reading… wait, did she say ‘health practice’ of reading?! That’s right. Reading has shown to increase one’s attention span, decrease late-adulthood dementia and improve the memory—just ask Oprah! Next time you’re waiting for something at home—such as the rice to finish boiling, your Friday night date to arrive or your best friend to call with updates on her engagement—rather than hopping onto Facebook or flipping on the television, open a book (or even a magazine) and do your mind and body some good.

        4) Enjoy tiny snacks. Don’t you just love those tiny noshes lying out next to the cucumber-infused water inside the spa? Mini brownies, chocolate-covered nuts, or fresh grapes and berries… a good spa will often have out little snacks for the customer. They make you feel special, and they’re only slightly indulgent. Best of all, teensy snacks are good for you. Many experts believe that eating several small meals throughout the day is more beneficial than eating just 3 large meals a day. Whether you space out several small meals or have the standard square meals, you can benefit from having small snacks throughout the day, which help to speed up metabolism, improve digestion and reduce cravings. Good snacking options include nuts, fruits, whole grain crackers and some local cheese—but if you’re really craving a slightindulgence, go ahead and have a mini brownie for dessert. You deserve it.

          5) Pamper yourself. At the end of the day at the spa, what it all boils down to—the massages, the steam rooms, the stones, the foot rubs, the hot teas, the deep breaths—is one simple notion: Pampering yourself. And that’s very important for long-term health and well-being. Mind you, pampering is not the same thing as binging, gorging or spoiling; it’s taking time to give yourself 100 percent attention, care and devotion. And we don’t do that often enough in our regular lives. We’re busy running around doing a good job at work, taking care of the house, taking care of our loved ones and paying our bills. But when we take time to give ourselves pleasure (not mindless distraction, but genuine rest, relaxation and reconnection), we give ourselves a sense of renewal. Check out this fabulous video on Yahoo!that sheds light on the benefits of pampering ourselves.

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