Resolve vs. Reflect

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We are less then one week into the New Year and the thought of making resolutions have probably crossed your mind. I want to raise awareness about the stress and difficulties surrounding this time of year. The word itself: resolution, means to solve a conflict or problem. This is turn suggests that we are problematic people with something to fix. And while it is commendable to always try and improve; interestingly, most of our resolutions tend to be negatively vague: “be better”, “work harder”, “loose weight”…etc.

We are primed to punish ourselves to fix problems that do not even exist – and then feel bad about not fixing said problem. We then think, we are not disciplined enough or not strong enough. But perhaps our problem is to think that something is wrong to begin with. Perhaps we are just fine as we are.

Self-reflection has been shown to improve awareness and mindfulness which in turn are good for one’s health. So instead of “resolving” to “fix” yourself, this new year I invite you to simply self-reflect.

 

Say No To Stress Snacking!

Let’s admit it, as much as we love the holidays, they can be a stressful! Nothing quite challenges our healthy lifestyle like this time of year; we are constantly trying to balance it all: buying the perfect gifts while maintaining a budget, making everyones favorite dishes while trying to eat healthy, and working overtime to complete finals or projects, while also trying to spend time with family and friends. It can be a lot! Now more then ever, we are tempted to stress snack. Which can lead to unhealthiness, which can lead to guilt, which can lead more stress and so on!

Remember, it is all a balance and you can only do your best. But here are some tips to beat stress snacking (most of them eliminate stress in the first place –  because sometimes the best treatment is prevention!)

  1. Exercise. I know you’re thinking, “when do I have the time?!” But trust me, you will thank yourself for making the time. Go for a walk, turn on some music, and just get moving.
  2. Drink Something Warm. Holding a warm mug will help you decompress, curb your appetite, and hydrate you. Triple threat!tea
  3. Breathe. Simple yet, effective. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds. This relaxes you and boosts oxygen to your brain so you can make clear decisions.
  4. Take Ten. 10 minutes just for you. Set a timer and shelf whatever stresses you have for 10 minutes.
  5. Reach for Magnesium Rich Foods. Think leafy greens, nuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds.
  6. And when in doubt remember, JUST SAY NO to stress snacking. o-NO-GOOD-GESTURE-570

Mind Over (DNA) Matter?

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We have heard it before; when faced with an obstacle think “mind over matter”. We can push ourselves to run that extra mile, order the salad instead of the cheeseburger, decline the dessert menu. But what if “mind over matter” meant more than willpower? What if we rephrase this a little to read, “mindfulness matters”; what would that mean to us?

A recent study suggests that mindful meditation can preserve telomere length in breast cancer patients. What does this mean? Telomeres are the protective tips at the end of chromosomes, think the plastic tip of a shoelace, and are seen above in pink. Maintaining the strength and length of telomeres is essential as telomere shortening is associated with cancer, diabetes, and cell-aging. Those with high stress are also seen to have associated telomere shortening. Mindful meditation and support groups may prevent the deterioration of telomeres.

The study, published in Cancer, by Dr. Carlson found that telomere length was maintained in the two experimental groups who underwent different versions of support groups/mindful meditation associated with their breast cancer; whereas the telomere length shortened in the control group – those who had breast cancer and only received a 6 hour stress management course.

This study gives evidence to physical benefits of mindful meditation, and possibly extending longevity through lifestyle changes.

Breastfeeding Tied to Higher Adult IQ in Offspring

Breastfeeding offers many advantages like vital nutrients and vitamins naturally passed from mother to offspring, as well as passive immunity benefits. A study that began in 1982, now shows that duration of breastfeeding is associated with higher IQs in adult offspring. Greater educational attainment, high scores on intelligence tests, and higher monthly incomes were seen in those who were breastfed for a year or longer compared with those who were breastfed for less than a month.

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Benefits of Vegetarianism

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We’ve been hearing it our whole lives, “eat your vegetables!” You probably do not need me to tell you that vegetables make you healthy. But did you know vegetarianism has been associated with decreased obesity, reduced hypertension, fewer cases of diabetes, and improved rates of mortality? What about reduced risks of cancer?

According to a study in JAMA International Medicine, vegetarian diets have been associated with reduced incidence of colorectal cancer. Specifically, pesco-vegetarians showed significant reduction in risk, similar to the Mediterranean Diet.

 

Here are some vegetarian recipes to help you get started!

 

Fragrances Most Common Allergen in Cosmetics

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Cosmetics and skin care products are often the culprit in allergic contact dermatitis (i.e. skin care products act as allergens producing an allergic reaction of the skin). A 5 year retrospective study was done in Europe to further understand the allergic source of these cosmetics. The study showed “cosmetics, creams, and sunscreens” were the suspected allergen producing dermatitis. The most common site of dermatitis was the face, particularly the eyelids. Participants that were exposed to cosmetics containing fragrances, balsam (aromatics), and the antibacterial agent methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI), and lanolin alcohols showed significantly more reactions than control groups.

Moral of the story: Fragrances are the most common allergen found in cosmetics.

Chronic Fatigue in Patients with Lyme Disease

A recent study suggests severe chronic fatigue may not be a result of early onset Lyme Disease; and further suggests, patients who do suffer from chronic severe fatigue 10 years after their clinical manifestations of Lyme Disease may result from factors not directly associated with the disease.

This study was done over a 10 year period with a sample of 100 people, all with early onset Lyme Disease diagnosed by clinical manifestations. Full Abstract and Bibliography

A UK Study Raises Questions About Peanut Allergies

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The English Journal of Medicine recently came out with a study claiming that peanut exposure from infancy to age 5 may reduce the risk of an infant developing a peanut allergy.

Allergic reactions occur when a person’s immune system reacts to a normally harmless substance (in this case called an allergen). In the early 2000s, it was thought that avoidance of peanut allergens would reduce incidence of peanut allergies but, in fact, peanut allergies in children have almost doubled.

This study showed remarkable reduction in peanut allergies in high risk children (those showing severe atopic dermatitis and having an egg allergy). The results suggest avoidance of allergens should no longer be recommended and regular consumption of peanuts until age 5 should be considered to reduce the risk of developing peanut allergies.

Read the Abstract Here 

Chronic Lung Disease: Managing Sleep Problems

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The following article was originally published at inhealth.cnn.com

Chronic lung diseases include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), most often chronic bronchitis and emphysema. They also include pulmonary fibrosis or sarcoidosis. If you have a chronic lung disease, you may have trouble sleeping. You may wake up often at night. Or you may not feel rested in the morning. There are many reasons you may not be getting a good night’s sleep. Lung disease can make it harder to breathe at night. Age, certain medications, and not getting enough activity during the day can also affect sleep.

Sleeping Better

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try the following:

Use a breathing technique. Taking slow, deep breaths can help you relax and fall asleep.
Ask your health care provider to show you how to do pursed-lip and diaphragmatic breathing in bed. Both of these breathing methods are good for people with lung disease.
Don’t have drinks with caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
Try to go to sleep and wake up at around the same time every day. This helps your body get into a pattern.
Avoid long naps during the day. This can make it harder to sleep at night. A very brief nap should be OK.
Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable for you – this includes temperature, light, and noise level.
It may be best not to watch television or use your computer or phone in bed.
Talk to your health care provider about any medications you take at bedtime, they may be keeping you awake. You may be able to take the medication at another time of day.

CPAP and BiPAP

To help with breathing at night, your health care provider may prescribe CPAP or BiPAP. You may be given a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device. Or you may be given a BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) device. These devices send a gentle flow of air through a nasal mask while you sleep. This air goes through your nose and into your lungs, keeping your airways open. Below are tips for using these devices:

Give yourself time to adjust to the device. It may take a while. You can ask your provider or someone from the medical supply company for suggestions to make it more comfortable.
If your mask doesn’t fit or feel right, talk to your provider or the medical supply company representative about adjusting it. Or you may try a different mask. Custom-made masks are also available.
These devices work best if your nose is clear. If you have allergies or other problems that block your nose, talk to your provider.

Medical Reviewers: Beth Holloway, RN, M.Ed.; MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: Jul 21, 2014
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

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Higher Fiber Intake is Associated with Reduced Risk of Premature Death

Mark Dreher PhD

Increasing dietary fiber intake is known to improve health and reduce chronic disease risk.

In western countries, only about 10% of the population consume the adequate intake of at least 25 grams of fiber per day.

A meta-analysis of 17 prospective studies from 1997-2014 including about 1 million participants found that increasing fiber intake can reduce the risk of premature death.

This study concludes that there was a 10% reduction in premature death per each 10 grams a day increase in fiber intake.

A replacement of at least one low fiber food for a high fiber food at each meal each day may lower premature death by 10-20%. For example, replace a low fiber cereal with bran cereal topped with black berries at breakfast, eat an apple or pear instead of potato chips at lunch, snack on almonds,pistachio nuts or sunflower seeds and add bean or lentils to your spinach…

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Holiday Overindulgence Risky for People With Type 2 Diabetes

Health News / Tips & Trends / Celebrity Health

SATURDAY, Nov. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Overindulging in holiday food can pose serious risks for people with type 2 diabetes, an expert warns.

“If you are someone who is not in good control of your diabetes throughout the year, the holiday season can really make your situation worse,” Dr. Laila Tabatabai, an endocrinologist with Houston Methodist Hospital, said in a hospital news release.

“If you are not mindful, eating foods with too many carbohydrates or sugars can send your blood sugar levels into a dangerously high range,” she cautioned.

There are a number of ways that people with diabetes can prevent their blood sugar levels from soaring during the holidays.

“Try to eat two or three special things that you only see during the holiday season, like grandma’s dressing or your aunt’s special dessert, and avoid sampling everything,” Tabatabai said. “If you have to bring a dish, fix something…

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9 Ways Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Fitter & Richer

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Photo: Getty Images

The following article was written by Alex Orlov, Life by DailyBurn and published on news.health.com It is a welcome reminder this week of how important being thankful and expressing gratitude are to our well-being.

Your parents taught you to mind your manners. You write thank you notes and tip your barista. But there’s more to being grateful than going through the motions. According to numerous studies, true gratitude is a powerful force that can improve your relationships, increase happiness and even boost immunity. Deep down, most of us know this to be true. But we still have trouble taking time from our busy lives to actually stop, reflect and give thanks for what matters most. The good news: Making the effort to get grateful is easier than you’d expect, and it’s way more effective that you might imagine.

Why it pays to be grateful
Spend just minutes each day reflecting on what you’re grateful for and we can pretty much guarantee you’ll see a snowball effect resulting in physical, psychological and social benefits. Here’s the catch: You need to get grateful throughout the year—not just on Thanksgiving.

One study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research confirmed that individuals who had a more grateful outlook got better quality shut eye, stayed asleep longer and required less time to fall asleep than their less grateful peers. Perhaps more impressive, people who spent times focusing on grateful thoughts exercised for 1.5 more hours each week, compared to people who spent time focusing on the hassles in their life, according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Plus, at least eight studies have shown that people who express gratitude tend to show fewer symptoms of depression.

A grateful state of mind can help you win big in business, too. Once study conducted at Harvard Business School, found that participants who were prompted to think of a time when they were grateful were less likely to act impulsively when it came to financial choices when compared with people who were prompted to think of something happy or neutral. Gratitude increases our level of patience, researchers suggested.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it,” William Arthur Ward, an American writer, once said. In honor of Thanksgiving, here are nine simple ways to cultivate gratefulness every other day of the year.

10 Easy Ways to Start Being More Grateful

Bust out your old diary
Studies show that people who make weekly gratitude journal entries feel better about their lives and more optimistic about the future. Not into breaking out the pen and paper? Try using an app. We like Five Minute Journal, which prompts you to write down three things you’re grateful for, three things that would make the day awesome and three affirmations (e.g. “I am confident,” “I am kind”) each day.

Write a letter to someone who left a mark
Remember that teacher or professor who helped you explore your passions? Or the coach who gave you the confidence to win that game? Grab some stationary and write out a handwritten thank you. According to Martin Seligman, an internationally renowned psychologist and author of Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing, you’ll benefit from the pleasant memories of positive events and people in your life. Plus, your recipient will feel pretty darn great reading about your fond memories of them. If you want to make thank you notes a weekly habit, gratitude-focused subscription service Gramr.us will send you enough paper and envelopes to write four notes a month.

Appreciate the mundane
Once you get into a routine at home, you might start taking your partner or your housemates for granted. It’s easy to overlook daily tasks. But small acts of kindness, (like when a roommate cleans out the fridge without being asked) make your daily life easier. In one study published in Personal Relationships, showing everyday gratitude for these mundane acts helped improve and even strengthen relationships with significant others. Bonus: The effects weren’t just immediate—they lasted for days.

Bring gratitude to office grouches
Even your sometimes-grumpy boss could use some recognition. One study showed that when powerful, insecure people received gratitude from subordinates, they were less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior. The corner office gets lonely, so show them some love and you just might be treated better in the future.

Compliment someone
There’s nothing like being on the receiving end of genuine praise—so why not make someone else’s day? Tell someone he or she looks awesome, did a great job, or rocked a workout. They’ll feel like a million bucks—quite literally. Receiving a compliment lights up the same regions of the brain that get activated when you receive cold hard cash, studies suggest. This region of the brain controls memory and learning, and researchers believe compliments can help us perform better for days after being given praise.

Thank behind-the-scenes people
From waiters and baristas, to cabbies and cleaning men and women, there are lots of people who help your life run smoothly. If someone has provided you a service, take a minute to ask his or her name and let him or her know you wouldn’t be able to function without that cup of coffee or late-night ride home. According to recent research, thanking new acquaintances for help can ensure that they’ll have your back in the future.

Give credit where credit’s due
Just finished a big collaborative project at work? Be the one to publicly toot everyone else’s horn. Recognizing how each person contributed to the success of the group will create a sense of community and can make individuals more motivated to bring their A-game next time around, suggests research from psychologists in Japan. Not the type to shout your appreciation from the rooftops? Write someone’s manager a note to report excellent service.

Make it a public affair
Posting on social media or participating in an online gratitude project can help you pay your grateful feelings forward. According to data scientists at Facebook, emotions are contagious on the social network. Post a grateful status update and your friends just might feel more positive. Don’t want to bombard your personal newsfeed every day? At The Gratitude Jar, read why other people around the world are feeling grateful, and add your own positive thoughts to the “jar.” Or, put your blessings on the World Gratitude Map.

Put gratitude before gossip
Catching up with friends over a few beers? Instead of immediately ranting about a bad roommate, demanding boss or weird date, start by sharing the positive highlights of your life. Talking through hardships is important, but sharing the good stuff with your buddies can help you feel happier and even help you cope with the truly sucky things that occur.

Gratitude isn’t about believing that life is perfect, writes Robert Emmons in Why Gratitude Is Good. Rather, it’s about identifying happiness when we look at our lives as a whole.