Growing up, I would always hear the phrase "Dogs are a man's best friend," but I had no idea that rang true until I received a dog of my own.
I welcomed Sophie into my life eight years ago after she was given to me as a birthday gift. It was love at first sight at when we both met. Since getting my Cocker Spaniel, she has enriched my life and made me healthier and happier.
We have shared many adventures together over the last few years as we travel the world together. From Singapore and Europe to Mexico, she is always there to witness my highs and lows in life, and probably one of the few dogs in the world that has traveled to many countries.
I frequently share on Instagram my personal stories of traveling the world with my furry companion and how she saved me over and over again during some of the lowest moments of my life.
From going through a bad break up to having panic attacks and having nervous breakdowns, I now no longer face those issues thanks to my beloved companion. To simply put it, having a dog has changed my life. She fills my life with meaning, and teaches me about unconditional love, forgiveness, loyalty and companionship every single day. If you're lucky enough to have loved a dog, you would be able to tell anyone that dogs have the profound ability to not only sympathize, but to help heal. Which is why, it is no coincidence that dogs are brought into hospitals and rehabilitation centers to make people feel better, physically and spiritually.
With that being said, from my personal experience, here are five benefits of having a dog in your life.
1. My Dog boosts my mood.
Sophie helps me in every aspect of my life including joining me in my yoga and dance journeys. When I was traveling the world and living in Italy, I dedicated every single performance to her because she was the main reason for my success. I brought her with me everywhere including rehearsals. As a dancer, the tediousness and strenuous demands of dance meant that I would be facing injuries, stress, anxiety and face a full range of emotions every single day.
Sophie was there throughout it all to calm me down when I was overwhelmed at times, to shower me with her warm, wet kisses after every rehearsal, and to provide me with support by just being there watching. Psychologists from Miami and St. Louis Universities found that the benefits of having a canine companion can be equivalent to having a human companion.
2. My Dog is better than medicine.
I look forward to coming home and being greeted by Sophie everyday. Even if I went downstairs for two minutes to get the mail, she still welcomes me home at the door as if I was away for a long time. Being a "dog person" has restorative benefits. Last year, a study found that owning a pet–-especially a dog–-improved cardiovascular health by keeping people active. At some of the lowest points of my life, Sophie helped reduce stress responses in my body, and lowered my blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight. She automatically improved my mood just by allowing me to pet her and be in her presence.
To me, dogs are magical creatures that help ward off bad energy. It is no surprise that dog owners have been found to have lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fewer heart attacks, and according to a study by the British Journal of Health (2004), dog owners also have the added benefit of having fewer medical problems than those without pets.
3. My Dog helps me stay active.
Another added benefit of having a dog is that she encourages me to exercise more! Sophie and I go for walks at the park every morning at 6 AM,12 PM and 5 PM. After which, she spends her time watching me do yoga or circuit exercises at home every morning. She loves the energy I give out when I exercise. Apart from the dog walking alone, dog owners were also found to achieve more advanced stages of movement compared to those who own dogs and do not walk them. The Journal of Physical Activity and Health (2010) concluded that dog walkers generally walked about an hour longer than their non-dog walking counterparts!
4. My Dog helps relieve stress.
One of the best benefits of having Sophie is that she is a master at helping me relieve stress and feel calm. Sophie is a great form of support when I get frustrated about not nailing a yoga pose. For some unknown reason, whenever she's with me when I do yoga I seem to be able to remain so calm that I am able to focus better on my poses.
No matter how angry, stressed out, or anxious I may be feeling, Sophie seems to know that her presence will always snap me out of that state. I am dependent on her as much as she is on me. According to a study from SUNY Buffalo (2006), 240 married couples with dogs were subjected to various types of stressful tasks where they were either alone, with their spouse or were able to see their dog before or after the task. Unsurprisingly, the lowest responses to stress were among those who were allowed to see their dogs. Maybe there should be a mandatory “bring your dog to work" day! Sophie and I love splashing on Radha Beauty Lavender Oil for better sleep and a stress free day.
Eight years later, our bond is even stronger than before and I can't imagine what life will be like without her. Whoever said that diamonds are a woman's best friend, obviously never had a dog. They shower you with unconditional love and affection, and are also interested in meeting every single new person who walks through the door. You can't help but go along for the ride.
Does your dog help you on your journey to mental, physical, and emotional health? Let me know below!
Originally published April 6, 2017
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Even though I’ve been rockin’ an H-cup for quite some time now, it’s still funny when I haven’t seen someone in a while, and they try and not low-key gasp when they take me all in with their eyes. I get it — kind of. I mean, if the last time you saw me was when I was in my 20s, it is quite a shift that’s transpired as far as my upper region goes. Plus, whenever I look down at these bad boys, I only see half of my breasts. And since they don’t feel heavy at all (not sure why but…), it’s not until I’m in a full-length mirror that I get that they are pretty, well, let’s go with “wondrous” to behold.
I ain’t complaining. The women on my father’s side of the family bestowed them upon me. What I will say, though, is when you’re a card-carrying member of the Over D-Cup and Up Club, “to whom much is given, much is required” is quite the understatement. Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to take good and then better care of my girls. And what I’ve learned, through a bit of trial and error, are the following 15 things.
If you’re in the club with me, hopefully, you’ll learn a hack or two that can make your breasts more of a blessing and less of a burden (if that’s how they’ve been making you feel as of late).
1. Get Fitted for Bras on an Annual Basis
Listen, again, as someone who wears a 38H, I already know that this one will probably cause some of you to roll your eyes, yet the reality is that bra experts say that we all (regardless of size) need to have no less than 4-6 bras that we rotate and then replace every 6-12 months. Can that get to be expensive? When you’ve got large girls, yes. At the same time, that’s why getting professionally fitted, yes, on an annual basis, is such a wise move.
Not only can you make sure that you are the same size as before (listen, I jumped from a C-cup to an H-cup in my 30s), but you can also discover brands that may work better for you than the ones you currently wear; ones that might be cheaper. My recommendation? Consider Wacoal. The price point is not super ridiculous; they fit comfortably, and they’ve got some that don’t look boring and bland (y’all know what I mean). Plus, you can oftentimes find pretty good sales on sites like Amazon.
2. Avoid Synthetic Bras
Before the article is over, we’ll talk about breasts and yeast infections. A few years back, I had a DOOZY of one underneath my left breast, and a part of the reason was that I was constantly wearing bras that were made out of synthetic fabrics like rayon, nylon, and spandex (or a blend) instead of “breathable bras” like cotton or silk.
We all know that bras stay on for literally hours at a time, and when you’re a D+ woman, that’s a lot of flesh that’s tucked away in them. The less sweat and moisture that’s trapped up in your bras, the more your skin will ultimately thank you for it. So, unless you’re trying to be sexy for a few minutes, leave synthetic bras alone.
3. Buy an “Asymmetrical-Friendly” Bra
I once read that a whopping 90 percent of women have some sort of “unevenness” when it comes to their breasts. Why is that the case? It’s because we all have two sides of our body that are more like sisters than twins. That’s why you might not have identical eyebrows no matter how hard you try to shape them, or one eye, hand, or foot might be slightly larger than the other.
There’s nothing wrong with any of this, yet if your breasts do have you feeling a bit self-conscious, there are some bras that are designed to give the appearance that things are “balanced out.” T-shirt bras, plunge bras, and balconette bras all fit the bill. The bra expert who helps to fit you for new bras should be able to give you some suggestions, too.
4. Pay Attention to Your (Natural) Estrogen Consumption
Back when my breasts were “doing the most” as far as growth goes, because I was no longer in puberty, I did ask my doctor (at the time) what the hell was going on. One thing was genetics. Another? My diet. Just like birth control can make your breasts bigger due, in part, to the level of estrogen that is in them, phytoestrogens can do the same thing. What are those? In the context of what I’m talking about, they’re foods that have plant-based estrogen in them.
So, if you’re a big fan of foods like plums, pears, apples, grapes, cabbage, spinach, tofu, garlic, onions, or beans, you are taking a form of estrogen into your system — and that could be playing a direct role into why your breasts seem to be getting larger. The bottom line here? Don’t overdo anything. Keep it all in balance.
5. Always Wear a Sports Bra While Working Out
Something that I’ve had to accept over here at the big age that I am is if I want my breasts to remain looking as youthful as they did when I was in my 20s and 30s, I’m going to have to exercise more often. If you’re slowly starting to surrender to that fact as well, please make sure that you invest in a sports bra for ample support. You are going to be absolutely miserable if you’re trying to get your run on or do some push-ups if the girls are flying and flopping all over the place. If you’d like a few tips on where to get a great sports bra, check out Women’s Health’s article, “The 19 Best Sports Bras for Women With Big Boobs.”
6. Build Up Your Pectoral Muscles
Speaking of a good sports bra for exercising, no matter what size your breasts may be, they are guaranteed to lose elastin over time; that’s just the way life is. If you want to keep them looking perky — or at least, perkier — without going under the knife, developing your pectoral muscles is the way to go. If you want to incorporate this more into your own workout routine, check out Women’s Health’s “The 20 Best Chest Exercises To Add To Your Upper-Body Workouts, According To A Trainer” and Shape’s “The Best Chest Workout for Women.” I’m telling you, every time I focus on my pecs, my breasts (and bustline) always look fuller. Never fails.
7. Watch Your Alcohol Intake
Some things aren’t shared with you in order to make you paranoid; some things are just a reminder to do (most) things in moderation. And that’s where this point about alcohol comes in. While, on one hand, alcohol comes with some health benefits (check out “10 Ways Alcohol Can Be Good For You Past A Great Buzz”), the flip side is it can increase your chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer. How? Well, alcohol can cause an uptick in your estrogen levels, and when that happens, not only could it lead to larger breasts, but there’s a chance that it could increase your chances of breast cancer, too. Again, that’s nothing to get super worried about; it’s simply something to take special note of.
8. Massage Your Breasts on a Weekly Basis
I’m thinking that you already know that you should be conducting routine breast self-examinations every 7-10 days after your period starts. Yet if you also want to improve the appearance of your breasts, performing a breast massage on a weekly basis is a really good idea, too. It increases blood flow to your breasts, helps to increase elasticity to the skin and it can also help them to sag less. Just apply a carrier oil like olive or sweet almond and gently rub in a circular motion for about half of a 30-minute sitcom. You should notice a difference in how they appear within a month or so.
9. DIY Some Cornstarch Pads
Boob sweat. Sometimes, especially during the hotter seasons, it’s unavoidable; that’s the bad news. The good news is that you can combat it naturally with the help of some homemade cornstarch pads. It’s simple. Just sprinkle some cornstarch on a few make-up pads and place the pads underneath each of your breasts after putting on your bra. Not only is cornstarch a highly effective way to absorb excess moisture, but it also contains amino acids that will help keep the collagen and elastin in your breasts strong and healthy.
10. Invest in an Essential Oil Collection
Something that I’m super thankful for is I don’t have many stretch marks, really anywhere, but definitely not only my breasts. There’s nothing wrong with those either; all they are is the result of your skin stretching out further and/or faster than the elasticity in your skin is able to accommodate. If this is your personal testimony (especially if it’s due to pregnancy, which made your breast sizes jump a few cups), something that can help is to apply argan, lavender, neroli, pomegranate, or frankincense (that’s been mixed with a carrier oil like coconut, sweet almond or grapeseed oil) to them on a daily basis. Not only will this help with the elasticity of your skin, but it can make your breasts appear softer and more supple as well.
11. Use Hemp Oil or Mango Butter for Itchy Skin
With big breasts comes more skin to maintain. So, if itchiness is what you’re dealing with, it could be due to dry skin, eczema or psoriasis, or your breast skin stretching out. Two things that can help with any of these reasons are hemp oil or mango butter. Hemp oil can reduce skin inflammation as it deeply moisturizes. Mango butter is full of Vitamin A and fatty acids that will not only hydrate your skin, it will also soften the appearance of stretch marks and help to keep your breasts looking younger. For a lot of reasons, I’ve been a fan of mango butter for years. Personally, I like to whip up a batch of my own. You can check out a quick YT video on how to DIY some for yourself here.
12. Have Some Anti-Fungal Cream on Tap
Okay, something I must admit that I used to have a habit of doing is, whenever I would bathe or shower, although I would lift up my breasts to wash the skin that’s underneath them, I wasn’t exactly looking at what was going on under there — and I should’ve. One day, it was feeling so itchy and raw that I stood in the mirror and was damn near horrified. Why? Because I had a purple ring that was shiny and looked slightly sweaty. It was a yeast infection.
Yep, contrary to what a lot of people think, you can experience an overgrowth of yeast just about anywhere. Mine was so bad that I had to take an antibiotic to clear everything up (look up under there at least twice a week, y’all!); however, if you start to notice some itchiness or redness and your skin doesn’t look raw (just like it has some “sheen” to it), applying the same kind of antifungal that you would if you had a vaginal yeast infection can help to get rid of a breast yeast infection fairly quickly. Yep. A tube of Monistat is a must-have for women with big breasts.
13. Try Some Red Clover Extract
Whether you’re in menopause or perimenopause, something all-natural that can help to bring some relief is red clover extract. Word on the street is that it’s great at reducing hot flashes, decreasing depression-related symptoms, and also helping with vaginal dryness — all of which can transpire as your body is shifting into menopause.
Since it’s also a solid remedy for improving the texture of both your hair as well as your skin, I just thought I would put it on record for this article too, especially if your nipples feel rougher or drier than usual.
14. Don’t Wear Bras While You’re at Home
To be totally candid, the debate of whether or not you should wear a bra is one that we’ll probably not come to a full agreement on while the earth continues to spin, especially when you’re a D-cup or above. The reason why I’m personally Team No Bra when you’re at home is because there is scientific evidence to back up the fact that, by not constantly suppressing your breasts in a bra, that can make it easier for collagen to flow through them, and that can help your breasts to ultimately look and feel firmer.
So, as long as having your girls “run wild and free” doesn’t hurt your back or feel uncomfortable, in general, give them a break when you walk in the door from work. The paranoia about that leading to sagging? You’d have to go much longer than you think (hours and hours for months on end) for that to be a major cause of concern.
15. Avoid Sleeping on Your Stomach (As Much As Possible)
Even though sleeping on your stomach may feel comfortable, did you know that it doesn’t actually have any solid health benefits to it? In fact, according to many sleep experts, other than reducing snoring, it can ultimately do your body more harm than good, especially since it has the tendency to totally throw your spine out of whack. Something else that it can do is cause your breasts' ligaments to stretch out, which, along with aging, breastfeeding, menopause, obesity, and collagen deficiencies, can also cause less firmness in the breasts. So, if you want to keep the big girls sitting up as much as possible, sleeping on your side or back is best.
Having a lot of breasts comes with a lot, no doubt. As you can see, though, with some knowledge and implemented TLC, they can always be seen as a blessing and not a curse. Take care of your girls — you’ll never regret taking the extra steps to ensure that they are…good.
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