Charles Dickens and the Meaning of Christmas 🎄

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens is probably the best-loved English novelist of the 19th century. And he has had more influence over the way we celebrate Christmas than likely any single person in history, aside from the “mighty Founder” himself, as Dickens would say.

Charles Dickens’s 1843 classic, A Christmas Carol, teaches that joy comes from giving, and when you raise someone up, it is your spirit that feels elevated.  This timeless lesson set Christmas as the season of charitable giving that has endured through today. 

Charles Dickens

Dickens was a moralist, satirist, and social reformer who crafted thoughtful stories and memorable characters that respectfully captured the way of life of England’s working poor.

The inspirations for the story that became A Christmas Carol came from Dickens’ own experiences. He saw how the Manchester Athenaeum – a library that provided education for working adults – bettered the people’s lives. This experience, along with scenes he had witnessed at orphan schools, prisons, and workhouses, caused Dickens to resolve to “strike a sledgehammer” for the poor. 

A Christmas Carol

In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge transforms from a cold miser to a kind and charitable person after four ghostly visits. The first visit is from Marley, his long-dead business partner. When Scrooge inquires after the heavy chains that weigh on Marley’s spirit, he explains that he forged the chains during his lifetime of ruthless business. When Scrooge protests, “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” Marley replied, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business.”  

Dickens forced the English to see the grinding poverty of their fellow countrymen and grow in spirit. No novel before A Christmas Carol had touched so many people. Dickens understood intuitively the sentiment that giving engenders.

After Scrooge sends a fatted goose to his employee, Bob Cratchit, he struggles to shave because he is so filled with joy that he can’t help but dance. Scrooge promises to make a significant gift to a charity collector he meets on the street. Filled to the brim with joy, Scrooge continues his walk in London, pats children on the head, and speaks to beggars. Dickens writes that Scrooge “had never dreamed that any walk – that anything – could give him so much happiness.”

These happy encounters reflect the spirit of the story’s ending – giving to others and charity make us happy, contented, and fulfilled. Dickens gives us an enduring message: we can find fulfillment in the common welfare of humankind.

This tale of charity, joy, and human redemption has endured beyond even Dickens’s vivid imagination. His account of Scrooge and the true meaning of Christmas has never been out of print, and Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the best-loved literary characters.

After almost 180 years, A Christmas Carol continues to touch our hearts. All of us understand that generosity brings joy. The story’s messages of kindness and compassion cut through the season’s materialism and get to the soul of the Christmas season. 

Spreading Christmas Joy

Make someone else’s life better, and watch what happens to you. Meaning and purpose will reinsert themselves into your holiday experience, giving way to a growing appreciation for the joyful abundance of life.

Do things big and small – join a group dedicated to a large service project, become a mentor, commit random acts of kindness in your neighborhood. Find out if your elderly neighbor needs a ride or meal. Even wishing store clerks and strangers waiting in long lines “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” can bring smiles to tired faces — and lift your own Christmas mood.

Spreading joy, gratitude, and happiness during the Christmas season and throughout the year are integral to your happiness, good health, and building stronger social bonds with those around you.

7 Must-Have Foods for a Better Mood

From time to time, when you’re feeling sad or stressed, you might find yourself racing to the freezer for a pint of Chunky Monkey.

Eating for emotional reasons is something we all do. Experts say eating gives us a feeling of wholeness when negative emotions make us feel empty. And that’s especially true today, as we all faced an avalanche of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty.

Using food to boost your mood can be an effective tool in your wellbeing toolbox. But to get the best effect of mood-boosting food, you have to put down most of the sugary treats and crunchy processed snacks and go for the good stuff. 

The Mood Boosters

Most of us can attest that our brains and bodies work better when we indulge in nutrient, wholesome foods. We are also happier, in the long run, when we choose our food wisely.  

Let’s take a look at seven must-have foods to boost your mood.

1 – Fish: Brain Food at Its Best

Oily fish, including wild and farmed salmon, is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat that has a profound effect on your brain and mood.

Up to 60% of your brain is fat, and half of that is omega-3 fat. For this reason, omega-3 from your diet can easily interact with mood molecules inside your brain, reducing the risk of depression and anxiety.

If fish doesn’t appeal to your taste buds, alternative sources of omega-3 include walnuts, berries, flax seeds, olive oil, and krill oil supplements.

2 – Nuts and Seeds

Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are good sources of mood and brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.

Sprinkle chopped walnuts and ground seeds on everything from breakfast cereals to fruit and vegetable, salads, and stir-fries.

You can use ground walnuts and chia seeds alone or combined with bread crumbs as a coating or topping for baked seafood.

3 – Yogurt

Up to 95% of the “happy hormone” serotonin originates in your gut. Serotonin is a mood stabilizer and gives you a sense of wellbeing. So, it makes sense that what you eat influences your mood and how your brain works.

Yogurt is a prime source for probiotics, the live beneficial bacteria that mostly live in our gut. Regularly including the sugar-free varieties improves the balance of good bacteria, which helps the production of serotonin.

4 – Colorful Vegetables

The more colorful the veggies, the more likely you’ll reap a variety of brain health benefits, so pile them on your plate! The best are dark leafy greens, peppers, carrots, and butternut squash.

If you don’t like kale or spinach in your salad, try it cooked with a dash of salt and pepper. And if you don’t care for steamed broccoli, you may like it better roasted in the oven.

5 – Fruit Salad

Fresh fruit salad that includes apples, grapes, blueberries, and strawberries will fill you with antioxidant goodness and other phytochemicals known to protect your brain from cognitive decline and potentially boost your mood.

Like veggies, each type of fruit provides slightly different benefits, so your best bet is to toss up a fresh fruit salad that combines various fruits and berries. Dress it up with chopped fresh or dried mint, or spices like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, along with seeds and nuts for a happy-making combo sure to please.

6 – Dark Chocolate

For many, chocolate is a favorite snack, but why is it that you automatically feel better after indulging in dark chocolate?

Chocolate is one of the top mood boosters because it contains an amino acid called phenylethylamine, which stimulates brain cells to produce the feel-good chemical dopamine. Chocolate can also increase serotonin.  

For an instant dose of dopamine, use real cocoa powder without additives. Raw cacao contains the full spectrum of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that regular processed chocolate doesn’t have.

7 – Krill Oil

Krill oil is an excellent source of omega-3 and a super convenient way to get your recommended brain and mood-boosting daily dose – especially if eating fish and seafood doesn’t appeal to your taste buds. Even if you love eating fish, a supplement can ensure you get enough omega-3 fatty acids each day to combat anxiety and depression.

Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Krill Oil contains 1,600 mg of K•REAL® Pure Antarctic Krill Oil, EPA, DHA, along with phospholipids to help improve bioavailability and 2,000 mcg of Astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals and help cognitive decline as we age.

Start supplementing with krill oil today and enjoy a more upbeat mood and better overall health.

Keeping a positive outlook and an upbeat mood makes daily life more enjoyable. Give these foods a try the next time you’re feeling down and see if they don’t help turn that frown upside-down.

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2. Best & Worst Foods for Brain Health, According to Dietitians | EatingWell
3. 12 Brain Foods That Supercharge Your Memory, Focus & Mood (
4. 7 foods that can improve your mental health, mood and wellbeing | — Australia’s leading news site

The King of the Medicinal Mushroom Kingdom: Lion’s Mane

There are thousands of mushrooms species that exist on the planet. And mushrooms are a peculiar form of life. They pop up out of seemingly nowhere, in the strangest places. And unlike plants, they’re not green, they don’t have leaves, and they never flower.

Believe it or not, from an evolutionary standpoint, mushrooms are more like humans than plants. And this fact could be the reason why some of the elements that help mushrooms defend themselves also help boost your body’s defenses.

Scientists, doctors, and health experts have all taken note and are increasingly looking to mushrooms as a way to enhance human health and well-being.

Using mushrooms as therapy is not a new idea. Ancient Egyptians believed eating mushrooms led to a longer life. And mushrooms have been used as medicine for over five thousand years in Asian cultures.

Today, more than a hundred species of mushrooms are presently under research for their potential health benefits. These shrooms are real health heroes. And none has shown more healing power than the king of the mushroom domain – Lion’s Mane.

What is Lion’s Mane?

Lion’s Mane, also known as Hericium Erinaceus, is named for its white, fluffy, cascading spines resembling a lion’s tresses. Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow in the southern regions of the United States, China, Japan, and Europe.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are a safe and edible mushroom that appears to have remarkable nootropic brain-boosting power. Nootropics are compounds that help improve cognitive and executive function, memory, motivation, focus, and creativity.

Lion’s Mane is also known to help boost your energy and immune system function.

All-Around Better Brain Function

The biggest draw to Lion’s Mane for most people is for its nootropic effects. In thousands of studies, supplementing with Lion’s Mane has been shown to boost mental cognition, including enhanced memory, verbal recall, focus, and attention – something practically everyone can benefit from having.

One study published in Phytotherapy Research Journal, using a 1,000 mg Lion’s Mane over four months, showed significant improvement in the battery of cognitive skills tests. As world-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets says, “Lion’s mane may be our first ‘smart’ mushroom. It is a safe, edible fungus that appears to confer cognitive benefits on our aging population.”

Healthy Brain and Nervous System

Lion’s Mane is possibly the most potent natural source known to stimulate your Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). NGF promotes the regeneration of brain neurons and their outgrowths called dendrites and axons. These outgrowths are responsible for cell to cell communication. A study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms showed the interaction between Lion’s Mane and NGF encourages new dendrites and axons; the effect is quicker communication between your brain cells.

Relieves Depression and Anxiety

With things the way they are today, we are all under a tremendous amount of stress. Unaddressed and compounded stress levels can easily develop into anxiety, depression, or worse.

Research done in Japan showed that people who took a Lion’s Mane supplement reported less irritation, reduced anxiety, and greater concentration levels than a group of people given a placebo over the course of a month. It seems that Lion’s Mane’s ability to relieve anxiety and depression is linked to stimulating NGF.

Reduces Fatigue

Studies show that a polysaccharide (a type of long-chain carbohydrate) found in Lion’s Mane extract helps improve your energy levels and drastically reduces fatigue. Another way Lion’s Mane has been shown to reduce fatigue is by increasing the amount of energy reserves your body stores in your muscles. Due to its fatigue-reducing ability, Lion’s Mane is often used in sports nutrition.

Enhances Immune System

Lion’s Mane is loaded with antioxidants and beta-glucans, which will help strengthen your immune system. These compounds exhibit immune-modulating qualities, which help reduce inflammation and harmful prevent oxidation.

Supplementing with Mushrooms

Lion’s Mane is not the type of mushroom you’d find in the produce section at your local grocery store. It’s in the class of medicinal mushrooms, those that confer proven health and therapeutic benefits. Lion’s Main mushrooms are much more valuable and harder to find than the standard varieties.

The easiest way to enjoy the numerous health benefits of Lion’s Mane is through a supplement. Stonehenge Health’s newly launched Dynamic Mushrooms is an expertly crafted blend of Lion’s Mane 4:1 extract of mushroom fruiting bodies along with four other powerful medicinal mushrooms – Chaga, Reishi, Maitake, and Shiitake.

Dynamic Mushrooms contains 1,000 mg of Lion’s Mane extract per serving, which is the amount studies show helps elevate your cognitive function and boost energy. Take Dynamic Mushrooms daily as part of an overall healthy lifestyle – for better memory and focus, increased mental strength and physical endurance, improved ability to adapt to physical and mental stressors, and support for your immune system’s health.

1. Mori, Koichiro, Satoshi Inatomi, Kenzi Ouchi, Yoshihito Azumi, and Takashi Tuchida. 2009. “Improving Effects Of The Mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium Erinaceus) On Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial”. Phytotherapy Research 23 (3): 367-372. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634.

2. Nagano, Mayumi, Kuniyoshi Shimizu, Ryuichiro Kondo, Chickako Hayashi, Daigo Sato, Katsuyuki Kitagawa, and Koichiro Ohnuki. 2010. “Reduction Of Depression And Anxiety By 4 Weeks Hericium Erinaceus Intake”. Biomedical Research 31 (4): 231-237. doi:10.2220/biomedres.31.231.

3. HM, Xu, Xie ZH, and Zhang WY. 1994. “[Immunomodulatory Function Of Polysaccharide Of Hericium Erinaceus]”. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi Zhongguo Zhongxiyi Jiehe Zazhi = Chinese Journal Of Integrated Traditional And Western Medicine 14 (7).


The 10 Worst Foods for IBS

For many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), symptoms may be triggered by specific foods. What triggers your symptoms may be different from what triggers the symptoms of fellow sufferers, but these 10 foods are likely culprits for anyone with IBS.

1. Gluten

Although gluten is often unfairly demonized, it’s fair to say that gluten can be a major trigger for IBS. Gluten is a type of protein found in certain grains, including rye, wheat, and barley. Many people who have IBS are also gluten intolerant and may experience symptoms like bloating, cramps, and diarrhea.

2. Fried Foods

Fried foods are high in fat and can be particularly hard on the digestive systems of people who have IBS. Frying food makes it more difficult to digest, so other cooking methods are recommended for people with IBS and other gastrointestinal problems.

3. Caffeine

Coffee and other drinks containing caffeine stimulate the intestines and can cause diarrhea. Instead of consuming drinks with caffeine when you need a little boost, go for a brisk walk.

4. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are found in sugarless gum, candy, and diet drinks. Commonly used artificial sweeteners include acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and sucralose, and since these and other sugar substitutes are difficult for the body to absorb, they can easily trigger IBS symptoms.

5. Alcohol

Many people with IBS have trouble drinking alcohol because of how their body digests it. The dehydrating effects of alcohol are also problematic for people with IBS. If you enjoy drinking alcohol, stick with gluten-free beer, or enjoy a cocktail mixed with soda water.

6. Broccoli and Cauliflower

While broccoli and cauliflower are healthy vegetables, they’re not always ideal for people with IBS. These vegetables are among the hardest for people to digest, and when they’re broken down in the intestines, they produce gas and may cause constipation.

7. Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber is that which can’t be digested. Although it adds healthy bulk to your diet, insoluble fiber can make diarrhea worse for people with IBS. Soluble fiber, which is found in grains, root vegetables, legumes, and berries, is a better choice if you have digestive woes.

8. Dairy

Dairy products contain fat, which can worsen diarrhea. They also contain lactose, and since many people with IBS are also lactose intolerant, dairy products may need to be restricted. Suitable dairy substitutes include rice, soy, or nut milks and cheeses.

9. Beans and Legumes

For some people, beans and legumes can help reduce constipation by increasing the bulk in the stool. But they’re also notorious for causing gas, cramping, and bloating, especially in people with IBS. Different varieties can produce different results, so trial and error may help you find which types you can safely eat.

10. Processed Foods

Highly processed foods like bread, crackers, sweets, and chips contain high levels of fat, sugar, preservatives, and other additives that can cause problems with digestion. Choosing mostly fresh, whole foods is the healthiest way to eat whether or not you have IBS.

Everyone’s IBS triggers are different, and once you know what yours are, staying away from those foods will help you remain as symptom-free as possible. Regardless of what you eat, a daily probiotic like Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Biotics can help you maintain optimal gut flora balance for better digestion and fewer IBS symptoms.


Signs You May Have Candida and What You Can Do About It

Candida board

Candidiasis is a fungal infection that can affect the mouth, intestinal tract, skin, genitals, and other mucous membranes. Caused by an overgrowth of Candida, a fungus, candidiasis (more commonly known as a yeast infection) isn’t generally serious. However, if you have weakened immunity, it can lead to invasive candidiasis, a serious condition that may affect the blood, heart, or brain. Continue reading “Signs You May Have Candida and What You Can Do About It”

5 Easy Steps to Improve Your Liver Function

liver graphic

Your liver works hard to remove toxins from your body and plays a key role in your metabolism, circulation, hormonal balance, and healthy digestion. It detects the presence of toxic substances like heavy metals and by-products from the breakdown of medications and either converts them into harmless substances or releases them into the bowels so they can be expelled from the body. Continue reading “5 Easy Steps to Improve Your Liver Function”

The Mysteries of Your Digestive System Revealed

human digestive system

If you often feel cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or pain in your gut, you must know that digestive woes are extremely common. In America 60 to 70 million people live with a digestive disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

From chronic constipation to Crohn’s disease and from gallstones to gastroesophageal reflux disease, digestive problems can dramatically lower your quality of life. Understanding how Continue reading “The Mysteries of Your Digestive System Revealed”

Feeling Depressed? How a Healthy Gut Leads to Positive Emotions

Negative thinking has a profound impact on your mood, your level of happiness in life, and your relationships. Negative thoughts can even affect your general health. Through therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, you can learn a number of skills and strategies to help you reduce negative thinking patterns and increase positivity in your life.

But recent research from the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition found an important connection between gut bacteria and cognition that can also help reduce negative thinking and improve your mood.

In the study, researchers divided 40 healthy people into two groups. The first group was given a probiotic supplement each day. The other group was given a placebo. After four weeks, the participants were tested for negative thinking and the way they react to sad moods. A significant reduction in negative thoughts was found among the probiotic group, which also had lower cognitive reactions to sadness than the control group.

The researchers point out that this study provides the first evidence that probiotics can affect negative thoughts and moods.

How Gut Microbiota Affect Mood and Behavior

In a 2017 UCLA study, researchers wanted to characterize brain and behavioral characteristics based on someone’s gut microbiota profile. The gut microbiota is the community of microorganisms that reside in the gut, including healthy bacteria and those that are potentially harmful.

Forty healthy women were enlisted for the study and divided into two groups. The first group was comprised of 33 women who had higher levels of a bacterium known as Bacteroides, while the remaining seven had more of the gut bacteria called Prevotella. The researchers used brain imaging techniques to obtain gray matter metrics and white matter fiber density. Then they conducted fMRI brain scans to assess the differences in the group’s responses to observing emotional images.

The Prevotella group showed more white matter connectivity in the brain regions responsible for emotion, attention and sensory processing. This group reacted to the photographs with higher levels of negative feelings like anxiety, distress, and irritability than the Bacteroides group displayed.

Although more research is needed to determine the extent to which gut microbe directly influences the brain and vice-versa, the UCLA study identifies an iron-clad association of brain-gut microbiota interactions in healthy humans. Researchers believe they’re on the path to discovering a better understanding of the brain-gut connection, which will lead to new, novel approaches to treating and preventing psychological disorders like anxiety and depression.

Stonehenge Health Dynamic Biotics To Help Improve Your Mood

Taking a daily probiotic has been shown to help reduce negative thinking and improve symptoms of depression, and it has a variety of other important benefits, including improving gut symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, pain, and gas. Probiotics have also been shown to increase your natural energy and promote overall good skin, urinary, and vaginal health.

Stonehenge Health’s Dynamic Biotics provides digestion and immune support. Featuring 16 unique probiotic strains and 51 billion live probiotic cultures per serving, Dynamic Probiotics can improve your gut-brain connection for better overall health and wellbeing.