Walk With a Map

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Whenever I travel, I browse through my fun book, 52 Ways to Walk, to see if I can find one that works with my trip. So far, I always have.

On my recent trip to Savannah, Georgia, I selected number 24, Walk With a Map. With my illustrated map of historical downtown Savannah packed in my carry on, I looked forward to carrying out this activity.

Check out why using a map in an unfamiliar area is actually beneficial!

Walk with a Map title

Imagining a Place

In her book, author Annabel Streets tells the story of a young woman who finds herself homeless in Paris in 1924, after her brother disappears. Phyllis Pearsall quickly learns how to navigate the city, even though the only map she possesses is one she memorized. Covered with newspapers at night, camped under a bridge, Phyllis pulls up that mental map and practices finding her way around Paris.

As she explores, she learns landmarks and comes to recognize what time of  day it is by the scents she sniffs in the air. Baking bread and hot chocolate mean it is still morning. Chicken and galettes signal midday. And frying fish, garlic and meat cooking mean evening has arrived.

Phyllis eventually becomes one of the most successful mapmakers in the world. She creates the first A – Z map of London and then the Geographer’s A – Z Map Company.

She is a testament to what neuroscientists have now learned: every walk is an opportunity to grow the brain.

Walk with a Map study
Walk with a Map – studying mine every evening at the hotel.

How Walking With a Map Boosts the Brain

Neuroscientists suggest that the hippocampus, the part of the brain used for navigation, grows as we use it and shrinks in size when we don’t.

Studies of London cabdrivers, who must learn to navigate that huge city, have oversized hippocampi, due to their skills in finding their way through London.

Sadly, technology today takes away our ability to navigate by landmarks or maps. It’s too easy to pull up GPS to find our way to an unfamiliar destination.

Our reliance on technology is shrinking essential parts of our brains, making us more prone to dementia. How can we keep our brains more healthy?

Walk with a map. The hippocampus stores place memories. In a new location, we begin to create spatial memories that are stored in special cells. We create a brand new mental map as we walk and gather information.

Additionally, researchers found that the region of the brain responsible for spatial navigation also plays a part in prediction, imagination and creativity. It also helps with social navigation and building relationships.

Walk with a map landmarks
Walk with a map – landmarks such as City Hall in Savannah helped me build my mental map of the city.

Tips for Walking with a Map

In a new to you location, start with a general idea of your destination, without setting a time limit on getting there. Cities are good because they offer multiple ways to get to a place.

Study the map of the area before beginning the walk. Note the direction you’ll travel and try to stay away from overly busy highways or freeways.

As you walk, identify landmarks such as tall buildings, large trees, church steeples and anything that catches your attention because of interests you have. Using landmarks to navigate is known as landmark-based piloting.

And finally, use your senses. What do you hear as you walk? A chiming clock in a tower is good or the smell of bread baking in the corner bakery. Refer to your map to mark where those sounds or smells are and let those places serve as locational markers.

Pause as needed to get your bearings. Sit in a park, and remember that park as a marker. Study the map. Resist the urge to pull up GPS.

Once you find your destination, congratulate yourself! Well done. Now….see if you can find your way back to your hotel…or to another destination in the city.

Walk with a Map presbyterian church
Walk with a Map – church steeples make excellent visual markers.

My Experience on my Walk with a Map

I love the illustrated maps from Karpovage Creative. I have one for Charleston and Savannah and I’ve used them in both cities. One of the reasons I appreciate them is because they have historical buildings and locations marked on the map. That helps me find those visual markers more easily.

Every evening, I studied my map and made notes about what I wanted to explore the next day. It became a nightly ritual that I enjoyed as I sipped a cup of hot tea.

One of my planned activities was to find all 22 squares in Savannah’s historical district. They are laid out in a grid, so once you find one, you can figure out where the next one is.

However, more than once, I wandered away from the square I’d located. After realizing I had no idea exactly where I was, I’d pull out the map and study it to head in the right direction for the next square. I found them all.

The map also helped me get an idea of where the restaurants were that I wanted to try and how far the walk was to the meeting place for the ghost tour.

Walk with a Map pulaski square
One of the squares I located, Pulaski Square.

My Mental Map of Savannah

After spending five days in Savannah, and using my map as needed, I feel like I have a very good mental map of Savannah. Landmarks such as City Hall near River Street, Johnson Square, the Cathedral Basilica of St John and the Mercer House all became visual markers that helped me navigate. I knew I was headed in the direction of the river when I heard the barges or the cry of seagulls. And I could tell about what time it was by the trolleys going by and the delicious scents wafting from restaurants. I hope that means I came home with a bigger brain!

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, then 52 Ways to Walk is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And Take a 12 Minute Walk at this LINK.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And tell me. Do you enjoy walking with a map?

Walk with a Map mercer house
Walk with a Map – Mercer House

Interested in Savannah?

Check out these posts:

Vegan Eats in Savannah

Fun Things to Do in Savannah

Ghost Stories from Savannah


Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.


Vegan Eats in Savannah

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For most travelers, enjoying the local cuisine is an important part of the travel experience. It is for me as well. However as one who lives a plant based lifestyle, I carefully research restaurants and cafes before I travel, for vegan options.

My research pays off. I travel with a list of possible eateries in the area.

Even southern cities like Charleston or Savannah, famous for comfort food, offer plant based options.

Check out these vegan eats in Savannah for your next trip to the city, if healthier eating is important to you.

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Vegan Eats in Savannah

All of these restaurants are in Savannah’s historic district and very walkable if your accommodations are there as well. I stayed at Indigo Hotel and walked to all of these locations.

Most of these eateries are not specifically vegan, however they do offer vegan and vegetarian options.

Here are my top five favorites plus a list of other possible restaurants on my list.

Olympia Cafe

My first meal in Savannah took place at this restaurant near the river. Located only blocks from my hotel, it was perfect after a day of travel.

Located at 5 East River Street, Olympia is a cheerful Greek cafe serving authentic fare. Their food is prepared from scratch daily and they offer entrees such as Mousaka, Dolmades, Pastisio and Spanikopita.

They do offer a variety of healthier options as well. Browse the menu or ask your server for suggestions.

I enjoyed fries and a falafel wrap with fresh veggies, no cheese. It was delicious!

Vegan Eats in Savannah olympia cafe
Vegan Eats in Savannah – Olympia Cafe
Vegan Eats in Savannah olympia meal
Olympia Cafe falafel wrap with fries.

Kayak Kafe

This cafe at 1 E Broughton Street is a locally owned casual restaurant in the heart of the historic district. They specialize in freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, tacos and plant based cuisine.

Kayak Kafe serves locally sourced foods and use organic produce as much as possible. They also offer quality cocktails.

Whether you stop by for lunch, dinner or a drink, you’ll enjoy Kayak Kafe’s outdoor dining. The location is perfect for appreciating views of the city or people watching.

I love their vegan taco salad! It was so filling that I took half of it back to the refrigerator in my hotel room.

Vegan Eats in Savannah kayak kafe meal
Vegan Eats in Savannah – vegan taco salad at Kayak Kafe.

The Olde Pink House

I chose this restaurant, even though their healthier options are limited, because it’s one of the most famous in Savannah.

Located at 23 Abercorn Street, this restored Colonial mansion houses an elegant restaurant on the upper floors and a fun pub style tavern in the basement. The Olde Pink House serves up Southern cuisine and lots of charm. The wait staff is amazing and happy to share the history of the building, the oldest house in Savannah. Because of its popularity, you must make a reservation.

I made my reservation HERE before I traveled. Seated near a window in the spacious ballroom, I savored a vegan burger with avocado, served up with an order of crispy onions. After my meal, I toured the rest of the house, which is reportedly haunted, and the tavern in the basement, where, according to my server, most of the ghosts hang out! (Read Ghost Stories from Savannah!)

Vegan Eats in Savannah - the olde pink house
Vegan Eats in Savannah – The Olde Pink House
Vegan Eats in Savannah the olde pink house meal
The Olde Pink House vegan burger

b. matthew’s eatery

This classy, updated vintage space, at 325 E Bay Street, was a planned stopped for dinner, right before a scheduled evening ghost tour.

Their cozy interior offered a welcomed space to sit, after a full day of exploring, and eat a leisurely meal before my tour.

b. matthew’s eatery serves classic and new American fare for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner in the historic district near the river.

I ordered their vegan Summer Risotto, loaded with veggies. It was perfection!

Vegan Eats in Savannah b matthews eatery
Vegan Eats in Savannah – b. matthew’s eatery
Vegan Eats in Savannah b matthews eatery meal
b. matthew’s eatery vegan risotto.

Flying Monk Noodle Bar

My last full day in Savannah ended with a delicious dinner here at this Asian restaurant located at 5 W Broughton Street.

I LOVE noodles and Flying Monk did not disappoint.

Pho and other Asian noddle dishes are offered in this trendy storefront eatery with outdoor seating available as well.

I had the veggie Singapore Noodles, a gluten free and vegan meal. And I lingered over it because it was so good.

Vegan Eats in Savannah flying monk noodle bar
Vegan Eats in Savannah – Flying Monk Noodle Bar
Vegan Eats in Savannah flying monk meal
Noodles at Flying Monk.

Other Vegan Eats in Savannah

Here is a list of other restaurants in Savannah that offer healthier meal options:

Fox & Fig  321 Habersham Street

Naan on Broughton  114 E Broughton

Hungry Vegan  2 E Lathrop

The Sentient Bean  13 E Park

Namaste Savannah  8 E Broughton

Henny Penny  1514 Bull Street

The Vault Kitchen and Market  2112 Bull Street

Java Burrito Company  420 E Broughton

I didn’t have time to eat at all of these restaurants. That gives me an excellent reason to return to this beautiful city!

Have you visited Savannah? What was your favorite restaurant?

Sidewalk dining
Sidewalk dining at Kayak Kafe.


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The Hungry Monkey

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Don’t you love cute downtown cafes? I do, especially those that offer fresh, delicious meals AND have vegan options.

In Downtown Joplin MO, a new restaurant is getting rave reviews and repeat diners who are enjoying the fun laid back atmosphere and the scrumptious food.

I got to try The Hungry Monkey over the weekend for the first time and I was not disappointed!

The Hungry Monkey title

The Hungry Monkey

This island inspired eatery, located at 905 S Main Street, offers freshly prepared tacos, sandwich melts, wraps and poke bowls along with Hawaiian shaved ice, cocktails and mocktails.

Owner Daniel Campbell worked in the food industry in Maui for more than a decade and also worked with Ritz Carlton before specializing in small restaurants and food trucks. He recently moved to Joplin with the desire to create a fun place to eat.

There are tables for dining in the cute, island themed interior and a counter with barstools. The restaurant is clean and filled with light from the large front windows. Help yourself to ice water near the order counter or choose from an assortment of drink options.

Poke bowls, a staple of the restaurant, are a popular rice and fish dish in Hawaii. Seasoned with onions and soy sauce, poke bowls feature an assortment of veggies along with a protein of choice and often seaweed.

At The Hungry Monkey you can order a particular poke bowl or create your own.

The Hungry Monkey interior
Order counter at The Hungry Monkey

What I Ordered at The Hungry Monkey

I love a good poke bowl because I can eliminate the fish or other meat proteins and substitute tofu or omit protein completely.

For my first Hungry Monkey meal I ordered a poke bowl with rice, veggies, avocado, seaweed, onion, jalapenos and grilled tofu. It was SO fresh and delicious. And even though I ordered a small bowl, I took home leftovers to enjoy the next day.

I added an unsweet tea to my meal as well.

The Hungry Monkey poke bowl and unsweet tea
Poke bowl with grilled tofu, rice and veggies and an unsweet tea.

I’ll Be Back!

I enjoyed this fun restaurant. There are so many options for meals and choices for what you want in those meals. I’m looking forward to going back and trying the veggie wrap and the Hawaiian shaved ice.

If you are in the Joplin Missouri area, stop by The Hungry Monkey. They are open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 – 6:00, Friday and Saturday 11:00 – 8:00 and closed on Sunday and Tuesday.

You can dine in, order for curbside pickup or receive no contact deliveries.

Have you had a poke bowl? What was in your bowl?

The Hungry Monkey poke bowl
The Hungry Monkey – poke bowl


Check out more fun things to do in Joplin MO HERE!

Interested in making your own poke bowls? Order this book.

Or make this easy Quinoa and Broccoli Bowl!

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Take a 12 Minute Walk

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I recently realized that it has been a minute since I experienced a stroll from the book 52 Ways to Walk. And with the realization came the determination to browse through the book and select a new walk to try.

July in Missouri is hot and humid. I didn’t let that stop me from choosing Walk #7,  Take a 12 Minute Walk. In fact, the muggy weather inspired this choice. Even with the late afternoon heat I felt I could handle a 12 minute walk.

Why 12 minutes?

Check out the post for the reason behind this particular time.

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Why Take a 12 Minute Walk?

Sometimes, due to stress or busyness or life situations, we push the activity of walking to the “I’ll get back to it soon” list.

This chapter in the book encourages us to stop postponing this incredibly healthy activity and get back out there by walking for just 12 minutes a day. According to a study from Massachusetts General Hospital, walking for 12 minutes is enough to dramatically improve health.

Researchers tracked 411 middle aged men and women, measuring the levels of 588 metabolites in their blood. These molecules are biological markers within the body that gauge the current state of health.

By monitoring the participants’ metabolites before and after walking, researchers could determine the amount of exercise required before changes took place.

They found that after 12 minutes of brisk walking, 80% of the metabolites in the participants’ bodies showed positive change.

Take a 12 Minute Walk mercy park
Take a 12 Minute Walk – Mercy Park in Joplin

Changing Health for the Better

One of the metabolites that changed dramatically was glutamate. The brain creates glutamate when the body is under stress or exposed to toxins. Too much glutamate in the body is a biomarker for heart disease, diabetes and a shorter life span. Excess glutamate is also linked to brain shrinkage, a common cause of dementia.

Researchers discovered that just 12 minutes of walking, or other exercise, reduced glutamate levels by 29%. They also found a metabolite associated with liver disease and diabetes dropped 18% while another metabolite known to attack fat stores increased 33%.

This rather brief burst of walking or other exercise significantly affects the level of metabolites that governs bodily functions such as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity.

Armed with this important information, a daily walk of 12 minutes is extremely beneficial for health.

The study found that the best 12 minute walk to enhance health was a brisk or vigorous one.

Take a 12 Minute Walk pond
Take a 12 Minute Walk – standing by the pond

Take a 12 Minute Walk Tips

Walk briskly, building up stamina over time. A brisk or vigorous walk is characterized as taking 100 steps per minute.

Start by setting a timer on your phone for 60 seconds and then counting steps until you reach 100. Try picking up the pace if the timer sounds before reaching 100 steps.

Build up speed by alternating brief bursts of acceleration with regular walking. Do 15 second bursts of speed, then 30 seconds, then 60. Then return to normal walking for one to two minutes. Repeat.

Walking correctly with the right posture helps in walking faster. For tips, read the post Improve Your Gait.

Time a 12 minute route in your neighborhood or at a favorite park or walking location so you know exactly how far to walk.

Then set apart a time to walk. Early morning person? Walk before breakfast. More of a night person? Walk in the evening. Twelve minutes is a very doable amount of time to set aside for something as important as better health and wellbeing.

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. And take along a container of water to stay hydrated.

Take a 12 Minute Walk happy
This painted rock on the sculpture made me smile. Happy? Yes, happy to take charge of my health.

Taking a 12 Minute Walk

My days are very full right now. However, I know walking is crucial. This chapter reminded me of just how important it is to make time for walking and other forms of exercise, daily.

I chose nearby Mercy Park for my first 12 minute walk. The park just added seven new sculptures to the grounds and I was eager to see them.

During my walk I alternated brisk bursts of walking with normal walking. I’ll have to work on improving my speed.

After my brisk walk, I made another, slower loop around the park so I could take photos and admire the sculptures. In spite of the heat, a steady breeze helped keep me cool and a fine mist off of the pond fountain was refreshing as well.

My intention is to take a 12 minute walk every day for the next 30 days and beyond. I’ll do a follow up post to share the results!

Take a 12 Minute Walk reflection
Take a 12 Minute Walk – beautiful reflection

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Cold at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share highlights of some of the walks.

Are you ready to take a 12 minute walk this week? Where will you walk?

Take a 12 Minute Walk mural
At the end of my 12 minute walk.



Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.


Health Tips for Road Trips

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It’s the season of road trips. School is out, summer approaches, adventure beckons. It’s the perfect time to load up the car and head off down that highway. I just recently completed my first road trip for the year, to beautiful Blue Ridge, Georgia in the mountains.

As Greg and I prepped for a 700 mile drive across five states to reach our destination, I did more than pack clothes and fill my daily medication holder with supplements. I also prepared for a long ride in the car, with the desire to make it as supportive of my health as possible.

The trip was a success, in terms of the enjoyment I experienced exploring a new to me place and doing well riding for hours in the car.

Try these simple health tips for road trips on your next long distance adventure.

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Wear Comfy Clothing

As with flying, when riding for miles and hours confined in a car, it’s important to wear loose fitting, comfy clothing. This isn’t the time for constricting clothes that can cause discomfort by interfering with blood flow. Lightweight, flowing pants or shorts, a loose fitting shirt and sneakers are perfect.

If you have trouble with restless legs or muscle cramps in calves while riding long distances, try compression socks. There are cute ones available, if that lessens the perception of wearing compression socks. They help with circulation, and prevent swelling, which can keep legs more comfortable as you travel. I bought these before my last international flight and they helped so much!

For extra fun, wear a graphic travel tee with ADVENTURE spelled out across the front of it or has ROAD TRIP vibes.

Protect Eyes with Sunglasses

Eyes are exposed to sunlight and glare while riding in the car. Protect them with sunglasses. Polarized with UV protection is a good choice. Amber, grey, brown or grey are the best lens colors, to reduce brightness while not distorting colors. Blue and yellow lenses cause color distortion.

Additionally, reducing glare with sunglasses increases visibility while driving, keeping you and other drivers safer.

Health Tips for Road Trips sunglasses
Health Tips for Road Trips – wear sunglasses for eye protection and better visibility

Buckle Up

Along with wearing comfy clothes and protective sunglasses, wear a seatbelt. It just makes sense for everyone in the car to wear a seatbelt while traveling. The cross body and around the hips belts keep the body from being thrown around the car in an accident, or worse, ejected through the windshield. Seatbelts also prevent injury or even death from a rapidly inflating air bag.

The bottom line is, seatbelts save lives and prevent getting stopped for a violation. Ensure you arrive safely to your destination by buckling up.

Stay Hydrated

To feel your best while traveling, stay hydrated by drinking enough water. I know. Most people on a long car trip do the opposite, fearful that drinking water makes them have to stop too often for bathroom breaks. First of all, that’s the next tip: stop every couple of hours to stretch and move. And secondly, drinking enough water while on road trips helps the body to function better meaning you feel better.

Adequate hydration regulates body temperature, keeps those joints that are often bent while riding in the car lubricated, delivers nutrients to cells and keeps all your organs functioning properly.

You’ll feel less tired when you arrive at your destination and less thirsty as well.

Health Tips for Road Trips stay hydrated
Health Tips for Road Trips – stay hydrated

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Sun exposure happens while riding in the car, especially on the face and arms. Use an SPF 50 sunscreen. It’s more about protecting the skin than preventing sunburn. A good rule of thumb is, when outdoors, use sunscreen.

Pack Healthy Snacks

One of the fun activities while road tripping is munching on snacks. Instead of bags of potato chips, cookies or candy bars, take along healthy choices to fuel your body.

Good suggestions include fruit such as apple slices, bananas, grapes and oranges, cut up veggies, nuts, unsalted airpopped popcorn and low sugar treats such as Munk Pack bars.

As a bonus, I packed groceries for our trip since we knew we would arrive late to our accommodations. The cabin offered a full kitchen and groceries on hand meant I could easily cook healthy meals there. However, more than once on the drive we broke into our box of groceries for a light meal.

Health Tips for Road Trips healthy snacks
Health Tips for Road Trips – pack healthy snacks

Take Breaks to Stretch and Walk

While it might seem like it takes too much time away from the journey to stop every couple of hours, getting out of the car even for a few minutes is good for the body.

Stretching, walking and moving gets blood circulating, eases tight, stiff muscles and keeps you alert, especially when you are the driver. It’s a great time to take that bathroom break as well, after drinking your water. Stretch out the spine, roll shoulders, walk around the car or into a convenience store or restaurant. Loosen up those muscles and you’ll ride better when you return to the car.

Put the Phone Down

If you are the driver, this is a must. Keep attention on the road and traffic and off of the phone. A driver is 23 times more likely to have an accident while sending text messages than if he or she is driving only.

You can still use your phone’s GPS for driving directions by starting the app and then placing the phone in a holder or the console. Listen to music or podcasts but don’t text or try to use the map while driving. Designate a passenger in the car as the message sender, map adjustor, music selector and keep eyes alert and attention focused.

Do You Have Other Tips?

Are you headed out on a road trip this summer? What is your destination?

I hope these health tips for road trips are helpful. Do you have other tips that you find useful? Add them to the comments.

Health Tips for Road Trips no texting
Health Tips for Road Trips – have a designated phone person to text, FaceTime and adjust the map. No texting and driving.


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Health Benefits of Hugging

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“I have learned that there is more power in a good hug than in a thousand meaningful words.”  Ann Hood

Did you know that the simple act of hugging someone, holding someone in your arms, is not only a crucial part of human development but also creates positive effects in the body?

It’s true. Hugging raises the energy level in the participants as it promotes wellbeing.

Check out these eight health benefits of hugging…and then embrace a friend or loved one.

Health Benefits of Hugging title

20 Second Hug

According to psychotherapist Virginia Satir, we all need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs daily for growth.

On average, when people hug the embrace lasts for three seconds or less. And while a short hug is better than no hug at all, those longer hugs bring the most benefits. Strive for at least 20 seconds. The feel good hormone oxytocin is released during a sustained hug, which strengthens connection and heightens the health benefits.

What are the benefits? Here they are.

Oxytocin Reduces Anxiety and Stress

Oxytocin released through hugging reduces anxiety and stress in both participants. That’s why we instinctively gather up a hurt child or embrace a friend who is struggling. That act of holding another…and being held…comforts while also demonstrating compassion and support.

Hugging also stimulates dopamine, another feel good hormone that helps boost mood and combat depression. Serotonin is released as well, easing sadness and pain and even prolonging life.

Health Benefits of Hugging goodbye
A hug goodbye as a child begins college.

Hugs Protect Against Illness

The stress reducing effects of hugging help to promote overall health.

In a study of 400 adults, researcher found that hugging reduced the likelihood of the participants becoming sick. Those who felt the most supported experienced greater health and fewer illnesses. And those who felt most supported who did get sick displayed less severe symptoms than those with little or no support.

Hugging also decreases autoimmune disease symptoms and lowers glucose levels in children with diabetes.

Improves Heart Health

An affectionate relationship with another, that includes frequent hugs, is good for heart health.

In a study, scientist divided 200 adults into two groups.

In he first group, romantic partners held hands for 10 minutes followed by a 20 second hug.

During time together in the second group, romantic partners sat in silence for 10 minutes and 20 seconds.

Those in group one showed greater reductions in blood pressure levels and heart rates than those in group two.

Health Benefits of Hugging Day and Fin
Health Benefits of Hugging – improved health


Hugs Lessen Fears

Hugging helps to reduce anxiety in those with low self esteem along with fears about their existence. It helps to calm other fears as well. Even hugging an inanimate object such as a stuffed animal has a beneficial effect.

Hugs Make Us Feel Happier

Oxytocin is sometimes called the cuddle hormone because levels rise when we hug. Women seem to experience this boost to feelings of happiness the most, especially when receiving hugs from their partners and when they hug and cuddle their babies.

Health Benefits of Hugging couple
Health Benefits of Hugging – greater feelings of happiness

Pain Reduction

Hugging and other forms of touch can help to reduce pain.

In a study with fibromyalgia patients, people received six therapeutic touch treatments that included hugging and light touching of the skin. Participants reported less pain and an increased quality of life.

Hugging Improves Communication

Communication occurs verbally and also through facial expressions and through touch. Hugging for at least 20 seconds is a way to communicate love, acceptance, support and comfort through physical touch. During an extended hug, both participants experience relaxation in addition to slower breathing and heart rates. The pair often begin to breath in sync as they embrace.

Strengthens the Immune System

A hug puts gentle pressure on the sternum, stimulating the thymus gland which regulates the body’s production of white blood cells. These cells help keep the body healthy and free from disease, boosting the immune system and creating a greater sense of wellbeing.

Health Benefits of Hugging cousins
Health Benefits of Hugging – strengthened immune system

Be a Love Pharmacist…Dispense Hugs

Have you had a dozen 20 second hugs today?

In our oft times busy lives, with school, work and appointments, we call out a quick “I love you” and give a peck on the cheek as we dash out the door or before collapsing exhausted onto the sofa at the end of a long day.

What if we intentionally gave hugs throughout the day, taking time for a full contact, 20 second embrace? If 12 hugs a day seems too many at first, start with four and then increase to eight and finally, to a dozen.

How might that not only improve our health and wellbeing but shift the energy of our days? And how might the recipients of our hugs respond and feel?

I’m willing to find out. Are you?

Health Benefits of Hugging group hug
Group hug!


Free Hugs T Shirt…click photo to order.



Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.


I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.



Improve Your Gait

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

This week’s walk, from the book 52 Ways to Walk, intrigued me. I’ve experienced issues with my walk since my toddler days.

I toe in, a condition that others jokingly called “pigeon toed” during my childhood. As a tiny tot barely mobile, I wore braces on my feet at night, in an attempt to point my feet outward rather than inward. They didn’t work, because it’s a hip/leg connection problem, not a foot one.

I broke my right leg twice and surgery removed a benign tumor from that same leg, all by age five. Those incidents required hip to toe casts and later a walking cast, which severely hampered my activity level for a while.

And a serious car accident in my late 30s injured my low back and began a 20 year journey of unrelenting pain, stiffness and inflammation in my back and legs. Eventually, I used a cane to walk and faced the prospect of using a wheelchair. Thankfully, a plant based lifestyle ended the pain and inflammation and greatly reduced the stiffness in my legs.

All of those situations throughout my life has left me with a walk that is less than perfect. Although I’ve accepted my unique stride, I welcomed the challenge to be more mindful as I walk.

This Walk #2, Improve Your Gait.

Improve Your Gait title

Improve Your Gait

After Canadian scientists studied 500 walkers, they came to a startling conclusion. With a 70% accuracy, they were able to identify which walkers had early cognitive impairment, just by watching their gaits.

Their findings agree with earlier studies. Our walking gait, at age 45, can predict our chances of getting Alzheimer’s. The takeaway: how we walk provides a hint about the health of our brains. The question scientists are still studying…does gait affect the brain? Or does the brain affect the gait?

The Long Term Effects of a Sedentary Life

One of the factors contributing to cognitive decline and the need to improve gait is a sedentary lifestyle.

We sit for long periods of time, so much more than our parents and grandparents did.

Our bodies lose strength, balance and flexibility due to hours hunched over a laptop followed by evenings camped out on the sofa. For some women, add in tight, ill fitting albeit fashionable shoes with high heels and our feet suffer.

Those bones, muscles and joints in the feet get out of whack, tighten up and lose the ability to walk gracefully and smoothly.

Sports scientist Joanna Hall also believes that a sedentary lifestyle affects HOW we walk. Sitting for too many hours every day shortens and tightens the hip flexor muscles and encourages the abdominal muscles to slacken.

Leaning over computer keyboards forces the neck and head forward, unnaturally, restricting back muscles and tightening the spine. And poorly fitting shoes cramp toes and stiffen the joints and muscles of the feet, causing us to walk with a flat plod that Joanna calls a passive foot strike.

So is it important to improve and correct gait, even if we’ve been walking since age one? Yes!

Improve Your Gait stance
I’ve paid attention to my walk this past week.

Tips to Improve Your Gait

Joanna, who works with people helping them with gait, recommends relearning how to walk properly to avoid injury and joint pain and to enable us to walk faster and for longer periods of time.

Her tips include:

Pushing off from the back foot, using the muscles in the back of the legs.

Rolling through each foot, from heel to toe, using the toes to power us forward.

Lifting the ribcage and lower back to strengthen abdominal muscles and create space in our core.

Lengthening and straightening the neck which frees the spine to move as we walk while relieving stiffness in the neck and shoulders from hunching over a desk or computer.

Swinging arms freely from the shoulders as we walk. Hands should be relaxed, not curled into fists.

Look 10 to 20 feet ahead and use the eyes to look downward, not the head.

And swivel hips slightly, which boosts power to the stride. Focus on shorter steps, so as not to overextend the legs, however take more steps.

Wear properly fitting shoes.

Improving My Gait

Walking comfortably is important to me, as is endurance. When I travel I love to walk all over a city or area, exploring and taking photos, learning the history of the location and getting a feel for the culture.

An improved gait helps create a smooth walk and also increases the ability to walk faster, longer and farther. This is exactly what I desire.

For the last week, I’ve mindfully noticed how I walk. I’m implementing the tips, one by one, noting how an improved gait feels.

As this chapter in 52 Ways to Walk suggests, ingrained poor walking habits can shift, with “a little work”. I’m discovering this is true.

Improving my gait felt a little awkward at first. And seriously, my legs muscles became sore. That means I’m using muscles in different ways than I did before.

Overall, I like what I’m experiencing. I stand taller. I’m more mindful and aware. As my leg muscles adjust to my improved gait, they will grow stronger and perhaps, less stiff.

I’m excited to see how I’m walking…and feeling…in a month.

Improve Your Gait library
Improving my gait at the Joplin Public Library, where I snapped photos.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Cold at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share highlights of some of the walks.

Have you ever consciously thought about your gait and the way you walk?


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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.



Easy Vegan Cornbread

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I switched to a plant based lifestyle in 2016. And since 2016, I’ve tried to create a decent vegan cornbread. Most of those attempts failed. One, Greg jokingly said, would be delicious with chocolate icing on it. That cornbread more resembled cake than anything else!

As a pot of Cajun 15 bean soup simmered on the stove a couple of days ago, I decided to give cornbread another try, using ingredients I already had on hand.

For the first time, I felt pleased with the results. Maybe I’ve been trying too hard!

Here is the simple recipe for Easy Vegan Cornbread. As a bonus, it’s oil free as well.

Easy Vegan Cornbread title

Easy Vegan Cornbread

Using only seven ingredients, readily found in the pantry, this cornbread came together in minutes. I popped the pan out of the oven as the Cajun bean soup finished simmering.

You can easily adapt this recipe to use what YOU have on hand.

Switch out the almond flour for regular flour, if you aren’t gluten sensitive, or a gluten free 1 to 1 flour like Bob’s Red Mill. Change out the coconut sugar for regular sugar if that’s what you have available. And you can substitute 1/3 cup of oil for the applesauce.

Easy Vegan Cornbread ready to eat
Ready to eat easy vegan cornbread

Easy Vegan Cornbread Recipe

Easy Vegan Cornbread

Easy Vegan Cornbread

This quick from scratch cornbread is vegan, gluten free and oil free
4.50 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6


  • 1 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish.
  • Combine all dry ingredients in medium sized bowl.
  • Add almond milk and applesauce. Still well, combining all ingredients.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before cutting.
Keyword cornbread, oil free, Vegan


Tips for Easy Vegan Cornbread

This recipe is so simple that it doesn’t require many tips!

For a less sweet cornbread, reduce the amount of sugar.

Don’t overmix the batter. Stir until ingredients are just combined.

I haven’t tried doubling this recipe however it should work. Of course, use a larger baking pan.

Check for doneness after 20 minutes by inserting a toothpick into the center. When the toothpick is clean after removing, cornbread is done.

Store leftovers loosely covered, at room temperature.

Easy Vegan Cornbread
Easy Vegan Cornbread

The Taste Test

I admit I was almost afraid to try the cornbread. I’ve felt disappointment over earlier attempts.

Happily, this batch passed the taste test. It holds together well and has a light texture and a slightly sweet taste.

The cornbread paired well with the bean soup. And no icing required. This cornbread doesn’t taste like cake!

We enjoyed this batch of cornbread so much that we finished it off this evening.

Do you have a vegan cornbread recipe that you love?

Easy Vegan Cornbread with bean soup
Easy Vegan Cornbread with Cajun bean soup.



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Van Gogh’s Eeterie

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Last fall, Greg and I set off on an adventure in the nearby city of Springfield, MO. We walked the cute downtown area. Because I was working on a post on haunted Springfield, I took photos of specific destinations in the downtown area.

We had an early evening tour booked at spooky Pythian Castle. In between our walk and the tour, we decide to try a new to us restaurant on historic C Street just north of downtown.

I spent a solo getaway weekend a year ago, on C Street, (check out my fun accommodations), and during that trip enjoyed Peruvian food at Café Cusco. This trip, we chose another fun restaurant, Van Gogh’s Eeterie.

I’m so glad we stopped by!

Van Gogh;s Eeterie title


Van Gogh’s Eeterie

Joseph Gidman, the owner of Café Cusco, open a second restaurant at 334 E Commercial Street. Inspired by his time spent traveling abroad and living in Rotterdam, Joe opened Van Gogh’s Eeterie with his parents, bringing a taste of the Netherlands to Springfield.

Van Gogh’s Eeterie offers a variety of Dutch inspired breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Try traditional favorites such as bitterballen, snert, Dutch meatballs, stroopwafels and apple tarts.

Or, experience the restaurant’s specialty, Dutch pancakes. These large, crepe like pancakes come with savory or sweet toppings. Plus, Van Gogh’s Eeterie offers a full bar with beer, wine and kombucha on tap.

Meals are served in an early 1900s brick building with a vibrant, contemporary interior. During mild weather, enjoy a meal on the pretty outdoor patio.

Van Gogh’s also offers vegan and gluten free options.

Van Gogh's Eeterie interior
Van Gogh’s Eeterie’s contemporary interior
Van Gogh's Eeterie wooden shoe light
A wooden shoe serves as a light at Van Gogh’s Eeterie.

Hours of Operation

Hours of operation are:

Monday through Friday, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

Saturday 8:00 am – 9:00 pm

Sunday 8:00 am – 2:00 pm

We dined at a time between lunch and dinner, and the restaurant wasn’t busy. However, normal breakfast, lunch and dinner times can be. Make a reservation HERE, to ensure you get to enjoy a meal at Van Gogh’s.

Van Gogh's Eeterie outdoors
Pretty outdoor dining patio at Van Gogh’s Eeterie

Our Van Gogh’s Eeterie Meal

To get the full experience, we ordered an appetizer, entrees and dessert, all vegan.

Check out what we ate.


To start our meal, we ordered Peace Fries as an appetizer to share.

These vegan fries are made from golden potatoes. The fries are topped with sunflower pesto, pickled onions and curry catsup.

Yum these fries were good! I enjoy trying new foods and this twist on a traditional food was marvelous.

Golden Peace Fries as an appetizer
Peace Fries appetizer


We ordered two different vegan entrees, so we could sample two new meals!

Greg chose the Vegan Curry Mac. This tasty bowl contained cooked macaroni mixed with tofu, green pepper, pineapple, onion and green onion smothered in coconut lemon curry sauce. This was such a fresh take on mac and cheese and it was delicious.

I selected Vegan Boerenkoot. This bowl offered sauteed veggies, seasoned broccoli and sunflower pesto over mashed potatoes blended with kale, spinach and swiss chard. I loved this vegan bowl with its unique blend of flavors.

Van Gogh's Eeterie entrees
Vegan entrees at Van Gogh’s Eeterie


As we did with the appetizer, we decided to share a dessert. Van Gogh’s Eeterie offers a delectable finish to the meal with Vegan Berry Lemon Tart with Vegan Ice Cream.

The lemon tart was served with a berry compote in a coconut date crust. We don’t often order dessert at restaurants so we savored this special treat. Truly it was the perfect way to complete the meal.

Van Gogh's Eeterie dessert
Vegan Lemon Tart with Vegan Ice Cream

Dutch Delight

We enjoyed our leisurely meal at Van Gogh’s Eeterie. The location on C Street placed us close to Pythian Castle for our tour. We actually had time to walk up and down the historic street after our meal and appreciate the sunset.

Have you eaten a Dutch inspired meal?

I laughed later when I remember that as a young girl, with the help of my mom, I prepared a Dutch dish and dressed in Dutch clothing for a Campfire Girls dinner. I believe we made apple dumplings. So perhaps Dutch food isn’t quite as new to me as I first thought!

Regardless, I look forward to another meal at Van Gogh’s Eeterie.

Sunset on C Street in Springfield





Walk in the Cold

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I admit that I am not a fan of cold weather. Normally I choose to stay indoors when temperatures dip into the 30s and lower.

However, on my December trip to Edinburgh, Scotland I knew I’d better change my mindset. I didn’t travel to Edinburgh to sit inside my temporary apartment. No. I traveled to Edinburgh to attend the city’s Christmas Market and to explore the city on foot.

It was fun to combine that trip with one of the walks from 52 Ways to Walk, the book I purchased last year.

This is Walk #1, Walk in the Cold.

Walk in the Cold title

Why Walk in the Cold?

Some people love the winter season and absolutely enjoy spending time outdoors in spite of the colder temps. In fact, those people feel exhilarated by the brisk air.

I’m not one of those people, or at least, I wasn’t. No, I’m more a snuggle up indoors person waiting for winter to shift into spring.

For many years however, I wanted to explore my favorite city during the holiday season and experience the Christmas Market. I researched the weather in Scotland during December and watched the forecasts on the Weather App. Expected day time temps were expected to hover in the mid 30s with night time lows in the 20s. That’s below average temperatures for Scotland in winter.

I adjusted my attitude about the cold, read Week One, Walk in the Cold in my book and prepared for those low temps by purchasing the proper clothing and outerwear. (Read about the essentials for cold weather that I traveled with HERE.)

I discovered there are benefits that come from spending time in moderately cold temperatures. Check them out.

Walk in the Cold coat
For my daily walk in the cold in Edinburgh, warm layers and a heavy coat kept me comfy.

Cold Reduces Inflammation and Pain

We know this is true. Injuries such sprains respond well to an ice pack. The cold eases painful muscles, joints and tendons while reducing inflammation and swelling. Cold also raises the levels of adiponectin in the body, a protein that combats inflammation.

Cold Increases Fat Burning

The body has stores of brown fat tissue, which is different from white fat. Brown fat burns calories and uses energy, essentially turning calories from food into heat. Cold increases brown fat activity and raises metabolism.

Researchers studying brown fat found that it also contains mitochondria, tiny factories inside the cells that convert food and oxygen into a form of energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP supports all the processes in the body, regulates appetite, improves insulin sensitivity and stops the premature death of cells.

Walk in the Cold boots
Walk in the Cold – keep feet warm and dry with wool socks and sturdy boots.

Cold Strengthens the Nervous System

An increase in fat burning modulates the sympathetic nervous system. The colder temps act as a mild workout for the nervous system, which in turns adapts and grows stronger.

The brain functions better as well, during colder temperatures. The brain needs glucose and when glucose is low, the brain becomes sluggish. That’s why we think more clearly when exposed to cold rather than heat. The body uses more glucose to cool down than it does to heat up. Studies found that we think more clearly, decisively and calmly when in cooler temps than we do in warmer temps.

Cold Improves Mental Health

Spending time outdoors, during cold temps, has powerful restorative and revitalizing effects. The cold calms the nervous system while slowing and steadying the heart rate, easing anxiety and stress. We build endurance as well, without requiring the body to work so hard.

Walk in the Cold st andrews square
Walk in the Cold – St Andrew’s Square, Edinburgh

Tips for a Walk in the Cold

First, we are talking about walking in moderate cold with temperatures above 0. Anything below that is considered extreme cold and great care should be used when outdoors in those temps.

Dress in layers to keep the body comfortable without sweating. The hands, feet and head cool down first so wear gloves, thick woolen socks, boots and a cap on the head. Make sure boots have adequate tread on them to prevent slipping on ice and snow.

Keep the body hydrated. Carry water or even a warm drink in a thermos. Caffeine, found in coffee and some teas, actually spurs on brown fat activity.

Fuel the body with frequent highly nutritious snacks or small meals. We burn more energy while out in the cold. The body needs the extra fuel.

Walk briskly. We use our arms for balance so keep gloved hands out of pockets. Use a walking stick to navigate slick areas and step sideways on stairs and when going downhill.

Walk in the Cold castle
I carefully climbed many stairs, some coated with a thin layer of ice, for this incredible view of Edinburgh Castle.

My Walk in the Cold

I spent a week in Edinburgh, walking in the cold daily. And you know what? I came to deeply appreciate my cold walks.

I dressed properly. I carried snacks and water. And when necessary, I walked with care in icy places. Every moment spent in that magnificent city was wonderful and the cold didn’t deter me at all.

My daily routine included breakfast in my top floor apartment (Check out CoDE Boutique Hostel), a morning spent exploring, lunch at a vegan restaurant and then more walking until dark, which occurred about 3:30 in the afternoon. Yes, the Scottish days are extremely short during winter. I ate dinners that I prepared in my apartment.

Some days I headed back to my apartment shortly after darkness fell. Other days I attended scheduled events such as Christmas in the Botanics at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. And some days I just enjoyed wandering Edinburgh’s cobbled streets after dark, taking photos and marveling over lighted Christmas displays.

My last full day in Edinburgh was the coldest. Temperatures never rose above the low 20s. After days of walking in the cold though, my body acclimated and I like to think my brown fat was firing away! I did well that day, exploring Dean Village, strolling through the Christmas Market and saying goodbyes to beloved places in the city.

I did indeed feel energized and revigorated. And I learned that I can tolerate the cold and not only that, I can enjoy the outdoors in chilly weather.

Walk in the Cold circus lane
One walk in the cold took me to a new to me area in Edinburgh…Circus Lane.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Rain at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.

Do you enjoy walks in the cold?

Walk in the Cold Edinburgh

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.