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Here Are A Few Things To Feel Optimistic About Right Now

From vaccine advancement to cleaner air, these positives are worth focusing on amid this coronavirus pandemic.

It’s easy to get sucked into a vortex of bad news right now, since the vast majority of headlines are calling attention to all that’s going wrong in the world.

There’s no denying the pandemic is tough on our physical and mental health, that people are dealing with all types of loss, and the overall situation is pretty dire and bleak. But we can recognize and respect that while also noting that not everything is completely miserable and awful. Amid the chaos, there are a number of silver linings worth acknowledging.

Our air is getting cleaner. Scientists are innovating at lightning speed and creating new types of tests, drugs and technologies. People around the world are uniting and so much more.

There are quite a few things that can bring some (measured) optimism into our lives right now — you just might have to go digging around for it. Here are just a few of those positives:

Smog is clearing up.

Around the world, major cities that are usually dampened by chalky clouds of dust and pollution are now getting some major relief. A new report found there’s been nearly a 17% decline in global carbon dioxide emissions since last year, potentially the largest drop in pollution ever recorded.

The biggest winner here is India, where air quality is notoriously terrible — during the lockdowns, pollution in the region has dropped to a 20-year low. Back in the U.S., we’re seeing clearer air, too.

Los Angeles, a city that’s been battling a smog crisis for years, is consistently seeing crispy, clear blue skies. The Twin Cities have seen a drop in pollution amid the stay-at-home orders — pollution in Minneapolis is down by 15%, and nearby areas are seeing up to 35% less pollution typically caused by car traffic and industrial activity. Detroit has seen a 30% drop in smog, Ohio residents are breathing fresher air, and same goes with the string of cities in the Southwest.

Crisis is breeding innovation — and lots of it.

There’s also a stunning amount of innovation going on right now. There’s a big problem that needs to be solved — the coronavirus — and the great thinkers of the world are hard at work coming up with solutions to treat, contain and prevent COVID-19.

Onyema Ogbuagu, a Yale Medicine infectious disease doctor, said there are over 250 trials currently looking at various drugs and treatments for COVID-19. There are new technologies that can sanitize personal protective equipment and medical equipment for reuse. Old drugs are being repurposed; new drugs are being developed.

“I think it’s amazing to see how much innovation is going on,” Ogbuagu said.

And it’s all happening at a record speed; crisis prompts ingenuity. These new discoveries won’t just help us recover in the short-term, but they’ll transform our lives for years to come.

 

The world is united in a big way.

All that innovation wouldn’t be possible without the massive amount of collaboration and info-sharing between countries and regions right now.

Science has historically been an extremely competitive sport, and researchers typically like to hoard info and take all the credit for their work. But during this time, scientists around the world are sharing their findings so, together, the world can take out COVID-19.

“[The pandemic] has ushered in an unprecedented era of cooperation and innovation from the private and public sector and medical community towards achieving common goals,” Ogbuagu said.

This level of collaboration has transcended country borders and regions and galvanized the research community, he added. The world is united in a way we’ve never really seen before.

Live entertainment is, in a way, more accessible.

Concerts, comedy shows, orchestras — attending such events are usually super pricey and involve a whole lot of planning and coordination. Lately, creators and artists are performing live online for free.

You can pretty much tune in to a performance every night of the week if you plan it right. You can start the week with Grace Potter or Metallica, wind down each night with a live stream from the Metropolitan Opera, spend Thursdays with Radiohead, and end the week with Ben Folds and Major Lazer. Here’s to hoping couch concerts are still a thing every so often on the other side of the pandemic.

You have a chance to reconnect with friends and family from afar.

Since we’re prohibited from doing many of the activities we love with the people we live close to, people are Zooming, FaceTiming, chatting and even letter-writing with friends and family from afar.

Though social distancing and stay-at-home orders are by no means easy, they’ve given us the opportunity to reach out and connect with people we might not have the opportunity to see regularly.

“Crisis has an interesting way of giving us permission to reach out to those closest to us for support reinforcing positive relationships,” said Collin Reiff, a psychiatrist with NYU Langone Health.

You can pick up new and old hobbies

Mental health experts say hobbies do wonders for our mental health and well-being, but it can be tough to find the time to take on new hobbies in the normal hustle bustle of life.

Reiff said he’s noticed many people are using their new free time to practice self-care — they’re going on walks, crafting, cooking, reading, writing and gardening. People are also revisiting activities they loved as a kid — whether it be playing soccer or making friendship bracelets — as a way to relax and revisit old memories (and, of course, stop thinking about the coronavirus).

We are being forced to recalibrate.

Finally, the pandemic has given us time to check in with ourselves and really prioritize our own well-being. This time is urging us to take care of ourselves. Not only is it important to keep yourself healthy, but other people depend on it now, too.

That goes for slowing down, as well. Our society has been so obsessed with being busy and outdoing one another. But in a global health crisis, that’s not totally possible. It’s OK if you’re not productive right now. Life is on pause. Acknowledge that, and let yourself rest.

Julia Ries   05/22/2020


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5 Tips For Combating Loneliness During Lock Down

Weekends and weekdays are not what they used to be, with a pandemic happening all over the world, we are all told to stay home and self-isolate for an extensive period of time. Although this is to help reduce the spread of the virus and ensure we keep ourselves healthy and safe, more and more people will feel extremely lonely. Being told not to leave our homes can have a huge impact on our mental health as we feel isolated and cut off from the world. Naturally we want to communicate with others, go out freely and do what we do on a daily basis. So, having these restrictions put in place can be difficult for many. This is why it is important for those feeling lonely during this period of time to find ways to combat it.

It is extremely important that you keep yourself occupied or that you find ways into getting into contact with other people. Here are a just a few ideas to help fight your loneliness during your self-isolation time.

1) Make use of technology
Yes, you read it right. This might come across as a surprise as many people will be against others spending a long period of time on their mobile phones or laptops whilst being alone.

But it is all about how you utilize your mobile phone!

This does not mean spending hours scrolling endlessly on your Instagram or watching YouTube videos back to back that have no meaning. You want to take advantage of the things your mobile phone can offer.

There are millions of apps you can download falling under different categories. If you enjoy reading or listening to audiobooks, there is an app for that. If you want to learn a new skill, there is an app for that. If you want to learn a new language, there is an app for that. If you want to catch up with a group of friends and play a game, there is an app for that. If you want to connect with like-minded people (in industry, for dating etc), there is an app for that. Now it is easier than ever to do what you’ve always wanted to do through your mobile phone, there is a world and a wealth of knowledge at your finger tips. So take advantage and go for it!

2) Communication
It is hugely recommended that you try to avoid texting friends and family and instead opt for different forms of communication while you are self-isolating. This includes voice notes and video calls. Video calls are recommended as is truly is the best thing after face to face interaction. If you find yourself lonely, video call a friend or family member. Seeing their facial expressions and reading their body language will help you feel like you’re not alone in your home.

There is also the possibility of having Thursday night drinks online, or watching a movie synchronised with friends.

3) Find your community
Now is the perfect time to identify your community. By this I mean, think about what your passion is. Now I can guarantee you, you will find an online community for it. Explore different platforms and find support groups and online communities that fulfil your needs and interests. It is the perfect opportunity to meet like-minded people and allows you to be your true authentic and vulnerable self. You will begin to build your own safe space online, allowing you to escape from your home to a space filled with interesting people.

4) Keep yourself occupied
It is important that you fill the time you have while you are self-isolating, keeping yourself occupied. With so much time on your hands, you can find yourself overthinking leading to you feeling anxious and lonely. Keeping yourself occupied can simply mean tidying up your room, learning a new recipe, working on a business idea, thinking of how you can add value to your employers or even picking up that book you’ve wanted to read for some time.

It is also important to have some downtime, you can keep yourself occupied by watching a series on an online streaming platform or listening to an audiobook. Podcasts are also highly recommended as it gives the feeling you are surrounded by others in the room. This will stop you from feeling lonely as you will have distractions all around you.

5) Stay active
There is an emphasis placed on ensuring you stay active throughout this self-isolation period. As gyms and many parks are closed, there are several alternative options instead:

  • YouTube – YouTube has millions of workout videos you can do online from the comfort of your home. There are all kinds of workouts available, with something for everyone. In addition to lots of personal trainers offering online sessions live on Instagram.
  • Cycle – if you own a bicycle, go for a ride. This is a great way to stay active and also ensures you are not in contact with anyone whilst doing it.
  • Go for a walk – If you don’t own a bicycle or don’t want to work out at home, the best option is to go for a walk. Take a walk around your neighbourhood, allowing yourself time to relax and take in the scenery around you.

These are only a few suggestions to help you during your self-isolation. Give some a try and make sure you are always keeping yourself busy or communicating with others to help fight the feeling of loneliness. If you need help, confide in someone or call a helpline.

Stay home, Stay safe!

Bianca Miller Cole  Apr 4, 2020
 
smartphone

Four Ways to Help Prevent Loneliness
While You’re Social Distancing

What if we were told that the best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic was to smoke 15 cigarettes a day? What would you do?

Loneliness, we know from the research, can be as bad for your health as smoking. It’s more predictive of mortality than obesity. And loneliness itself was a pandemic long before covid-19 got its name. (Between 1990 and 2010, there was a threefold increase in the number of Americans who said they had no one in whom they could confide.)

So canceling church, school, work and sports means we are doing something that can be hazardous to our health — in order to save lives.

It sounds like a trap. But it’s more like a balancing act — a seesaw we all have to ride now. You can alter one side and stay in balance, but only if you change what’s on the other.

We’ve heard a lot about what not to do. Now it’s time to talk about what we can do. “Look, I wash my hands a lot,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “But if that’s all people are told to do, it only takes you so far.”

There are at least four specific activities that can help compensate for all the things we are not doing, according to the research and my conversations with disaster experts, psychologists and epidemiologists.

Loneliness creates a kind of toxic chain reaction in our body: It produces stress, and the chronic release of stress hormones suppresses our immune response and triggers inflammation. And the elderly, who are most at-risk of dying from covid-19, are more likely to say they are lonely.

Fear also causes the release of stress hormones. And a pandemic involves massive amounts of uncertainty: by definition, the kind that won’t go away quickly. That kind of ongoing stress is hard for anyone to handle.

So what is the antidote? First, anyone who can exercise should do more of it now, every day. Physical exercise reduces stress and boosts immune functioning. “Outdoor activities are good. Going for a walk, riding a bike, those are all great,” says Caitlin M. Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins. You can even do this with a friend, assuming you both feel healthy and are not in high-risk groups (and assuming you stay six feet apart in places such as San Francisco, where public health officials have so ordered). “Our overall goal is to reduce the number of contacts we have with other people, but you have to strike a balance.” And there’s never been an easier time to exercise without going outside or to the gym. (My current “gym” is on my phone, through apps such as Aaptiv, as well as free online yoga classes.)

Second, social closening. (Yes, that’s a word, it turns out.) Relationships are as good for the immune system as exercise. In a meta-analysis of 148 studies that followed more than 300,000 people for an average of eight years, researchers found that positive social relationships gave people a 50 percent greater chance of surviving over time compared with people with weak social ties. This connectedness had a bigger impact on mortality than quitting smoking.

To keep your relationships active, the phone is your lifeline. I’ve set a personal goal to talk (actually talk, not text) with one or two friends, elderly neighbors or family members by phone every day until this pandemic ends.

The one upside of every disaster I’ve covered over the past two decades is that people feel a strong impulse to come together and help each other. So far, I’ve seen that same tendency play out among friends and neighbors, despite social distancing, and we all have to work to keep that going. The coronavirus gives us an excuse to check in with each other.

The third antidote is mindfulness. If you have resisted this trend so far, now may be the time to reconsider. Meditation reduces inflammation and enhances our immune functions, literally undoing the damage of self-isolation. There is evidence that prayer can have a similar effect.

I’ve been using the meditation app Headspace for 10 minutes every day for the past two years. The big surprise is that meditation is not about clearing your mind. It’s about managing your attention, and it’s a hard skill to learn without some kind of guidance. It may sound kind of woo woo, but the science is persuasive. More persuasive than it is for other things we do (such as taking multivitamins).

Fourth, do something small for someone else. In surveys, people say volunteering gives them a sense of purpose and reduces anxiety. In Ireland, a woman named Helen O’Rahilly has helped organize nearly 6,000 volunteers to help elderly and immune-compromised people get groceries, almost entirely through Twitter. In Louisville, Erin Hinson is matching volunteers with people in need using Google Docs. My son and another kid on our street created fliers offering to help run errands for anyone who can’t go outside.

Wherever they strike, disasters have a way of revealing our preexisting weaknesses. But they also open up opportunities. I’ve seen this again and again, from communities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina to families devastated by 9/11. There is a golden hour after disaster strikes, a chance to come together and build resilience.

But this doesn’t happen automatically. We have to seize the opportunity, without fear. Viruses may be contagious, but so is courage.

By Amanda Ripley     March 17, 2020
 
Amanda Ripley is a contributing writer at the Atlantic
and the author of “The Unthinkable: 
Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why.”
 

How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing

Here’s advice for preserving your mental health while avoiding physical proximity
With increasing numbers of people isolated because of quarantine and social distancing, COVID-19 is not the only public health threat we should be worried about—loneliness is one as well.
While scientists are rushing to understand how the coronavirus works, researchers have long understood the toll that social isolation and loneliness take on the body. People who do not feel connected to others are more likely to catch a cold, experience depression, develop heart disease, have lower cognitive function and live a shorter life. In fact, the long-term harm caused by loneliness is similar to smoking or obesity.
In January, a national survey found that 79 percent of Gen Zers, 71 percent of millennials and 50 percent of baby boomers feel lonely. Similarly, the proportion of people who belong to any kind of community group, such as a hobby club, sports league or volunteer group, fell from 75 to 57 percent over the past decade. Even without the coronavirus keeping us apart, it seems the majority of the population suffers from poor social health.
Although isolation is the right response to the coronavirus pandemic, we need the exact opposite in response to the loneliness epidemic. So how can you cultivate your social well-being while avoiding infection?
An obvious answer is the device you are reading this article on. People often blame technology for the prevalence of loneliness, pointing out that we spend too much time scrolling through social media and not enough of it interacting IRL. Yet recent research by my colleagues at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health paints a more nuanced picture: how you use such platforms seems to matter more than how much you do so. We can all benefit from developing digital habits that support meaningful human connections—especially now that it may be our only option until the outbreak calms.
Whether you are quarantined, working remotely or just being cautious, now is the perfect time to practice using technology in socially healthy ways. Here are a few suggestions for how to connect without contact.
Face-to-face from afar: The next best thing to in-person interaction is video chat, because facial cues, body language and other nonverbal forms of communication are important for bonding. When possible, opt for video over messaging or calling and play around with doing what you would normally do with others. For example, try having a digital dinner with someone you met on a dating app, a virtual happy hour with friends or a remote book club meeting.
One-minute kindness: Getting lots of likes on a social media post may give you a fleeting hit of dopamine, but receiving a direct message or e-mail with a genuine compliment or expression of gratitude is more personal and longer lasting—without taking much more time. When you find yourself scrolling through people’s posts, stop and send one of them a few kind words. After all, we need a little extra kindness to counter the stress and uncertainty of the coronavirus.
Cultivate your community: The basis of connection is having something in common. Whatever your niche interest is, there is an online community of people who share your passion and can’t wait to nerd out with you about it. There are also digital support groups, such as for new parents or patients with a rare disease. Use these networks to engage around what matters most to you.
Deepen or broaden: Fundamentally, there are two ways to overcome loneliness: nurture your existing relationships or form new ones. Reflect on your current state of social health and then take one digital action to deepen it—such as getting in touch with a friend or family member you haven’t spoken with in a while—or to broaden it—such as reaching out to someone you’d like to get to know.
Use a tool: Increasingly, apps and social platforms are being designed to help us optimize our online interactions with loved ones, including Ikaria, Cocoon, Monaru and Squad. If you do well with structure, these resources may be a useful option for you. Or you can consider using conversation prompts, such as TableTopics or The And, to spark interesting dialogue during a video call.
The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us that human connection can spread illness. But human connection also promotes wellness. Let’s take this opportunity to recognize the importance of relationships for our health and to practice leveraging technology for social well-being.
By Kasley Killam      March 12, 2020
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Kasley Killam is an Master of Public Health candidate at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper who specializes in social health and well-being.
 


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The Health Benefits of Tai Chi

This gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance, and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.

Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.

In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, “white crane spreads its wings” — or martial arts moves, such as “box both ears.” As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in some kinds of meditation — on your bodily sensations. Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.

Tai chi movement

A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age. An adjunct therapy is one that’s used together with primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, more generally, to improve a patient’s functioning and quality of life.

Belief systems

You don’t need to subscribe to or learn much about tai chi’s roots in Chinese philosophy to enjoy its health benefits, but these concepts can help make sense of its approach:

  • Qi — an energy force thought to flow through the body; tai chi is said to unblock and encourage the proper flow of qi.
  • Yin and yang — opposing elements thought to make up the universe that need to be kept in harmony. Tai chi is said to promote this balance.

Tai chi in motion

A tai chi class might include these parts:

Warm-up. Easy motions, such as shoulder circles, turning the head from side to side, or rocking back and forth, help you to loosen your muscles and joints and focus on your breath and body.

Instruction and practice of tai chi forms. Short forms — forms are sets of movements — may include a dozen or fewer movements; long forms may include hundreds. Different styles require smaller or larger movements. A short form with smaller, slower movements is usually recommended at the beginning, especially if you’re older or not in good condition.

Qigong (or chi kung). Translated as “breath work” or “energy work,” this consists of a few minutes of gentle breathing sometimes combined with movement. The idea is to help relax the mind and mobilize the body’s energy. Qigong may be practiced standing, sitting, or lying down.

Getting started

The benefits of tai chi are generally greatest if you begin before you develop a chronic illness or functional limitations. Tai chi is very safe, and no fancy equipment is needed, so it’s easy to get started. Here’s some advice for doing so:

Don’t be intimidated by the language. Names like Yang, Wu, and Cheng are given to various branches of tai chi, in honor of people who devised the sets of movements called forms. Certain programs emphasize the martial arts aspect of tai chi rather than its potential for healing and stress reduction. In some forms, you learn long sequences of movements, while others involve shorter series and more focus on breathing and meditation. The name is less important than finding an approach that matches your interests and needs.

Check with your doctor. If you have a limiting musculoskeletal problem or medical condition — or if you take medications that can make you dizzy or lightheaded — check with your doctor before starting tai chi. Given its excellent safety record, chances are that you’ll be encouraged to try it.

Consider observing and taking a class. Taking a class may be the best way to learn tai chi. Seeing a teacher in action, getting feedback, and experiencing the camaraderie of a group are all pluses. Most teachers will let you observe the class first to see if you feel comfortable with the approach and atmosphere. Instruction can be individualized. Ask about classes at your local Y, senior center, or community education center.

If you’d rather learn at home, you can buy or rent videos geared to your interests and fitness needs (see “Selected resources”). Although there are some excellent tai chi books, it can be difficult to appreciate the flow of movements from still photos or illustrations.

Talk to the instructor. There’s no standard training or licensing for tai chi instructors, so you’ll need to rely on recommendations from friends or clinicians and, of course, your own judgment. Look for an experienced teacher who will accommodate individual health concerns or levels of coordination and fitness.

Dress comfortably. Choose loose-fitting clothes that don’t restrict your range of motion. You can practice barefoot or in lightweight, comfortable, and flexible shoes. Tai chi shoes are available, but ones you find in your closet will probably work fine. You’ll need shoes that won’t slip and can provide enough support to help you balance, but have soles thin enough to allow you to feel the ground. Running shoes, designed to propel you forward, are usually unsuitable.

Gauge your progress. Most beginning programs and tai chi interventions tested in medical research last at least 12 weeks, with instruction once or twice a week and practice at home. By the end of that time, you should know whether you enjoy tai chi, and you may already notice positive physical and psychological changes.

No pain, big gains

Although tai chi is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Here’s some of the evidence:

Muscle strength. Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.

Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body. Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.

Flexibility. Tai chi can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.

Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear.

Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate than tai chi can offer, you may need something more aerobic as well.

August 20, 2019

 

Tai-Chi-in-Park

11 Ways Tai Chi Can Benefit Your Health

What is tai chi?

Tai chi is a form of exercise that began as a Chinese tradition. It’s based in martial arts, and involves slow movements and deep breaths. Tai chi has many physical and emotional benefits. Some of the benefits of tai chi include decreased anxiety and depression and improvements in cognition. It may also help you manage symptoms of some chronic diseases, such as fibromyalgia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

1. Reduces stress

One of the main benefits of tai chi is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, though most evidence is anecdotal.

In 2018, one study compared the effects of tai chi on stress-related anxiety to traditional exercise. The study included 50 participants. The researchers found that tai chi provided the same benefits for managing stress-related anxiety as exercise. Because tai chi also includes meditation and focused breathing, the researchers noted that tai chi may be superior to other forms of exercise for reducing stress and anxiety. However, a larger-scale study is needed.

Tai chi is very accessible and lower impact than many other forms of exercise. The researchers found it to be safe and inexpensive, so it may be a good option if you are otherwise healthy and experiencing stress-related anxiety.

2. Improves mood

Tai chi may help improve your mood if you are depressed or anxious. Preliminary research suggests that regularly practicing tai chi can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s believed that the slow, mindful breaths and movements have a positive effect on the nervous system and mood-regulating hormones. Further research is being done to establish a clear link between tai chi and improved mood.

3. Better sleep

Regularly practicing tai chi may help you to have more restful sleep.

One study followed young adults with anxiety after they were prescribed two tai chi classes each week, for 10 weeks. Based on participant reporting, the individuals who practiced tai chi experienced significant improvements in their quality of sleep compared to those in the control group. This same group also experienced a decrease in their anxiety symptoms.

Tai chi can improve sleep for older adults, too. In a study published in 2016, researchers found that two months of twice-weekly tai chi classes was associated with better sleep in older adults with cognitive impairment.

4. Promotes weight loss

Regularly practicing tai chi can result in weight loss. One study tracked changes in weight in a group of adults practicing tai chi five times a week for 45 minutes. At the end of the 12 weeks, these adults lost a little over a pound without making any additional lifestyle changes.

5. Improves cognition in older adults

Tai chi may improve cognition in older adults with cognitive impairment. More specifically, tai chi may help improve memory and executive functioning skills like paying attention and carrying out complex tasks.

6. Reduces risk of falling in older adults

Tai chi can help improve balance and motor function, and reduce fear of falling in older adults. It can also reduce actual falls after 8 weeks of practice, and significantly reduce falls after 16 weeks of practice. Because fear of falling can reduce independence and quality of life, and falls can lead to serious complications, tai chi may offer the additional benefit of improving quality of life and general well-being in older adults.

7. Improves fibromyalgia symptoms

Tai chi may compliment traditional methods for management of certain chronic diseases.

Results from a 2018 study showed that a consistent tai chi practice can decrease the symptoms of fibromyalgia in some people. Participants in the study who practiced tai chi for 52 weeks exhibited greater improvements in their fibromyalgia-related symptoms when compared to participants practicing aerobics. Learn about other alternative treatments for fibromyalgia symptoms.

8. Improves COPD symptoms

Tai chi may improve some of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In one study, people with COPD practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, they have improvements in their ability to exercise and reported an overall improvement in their quality of life.

9. Improves balance and strength in people with Parkinson’s

In a randomized, controlled trial of 195 participants, regular practice of tai chi was found to decrease the number of falls in people with Parkinson’s disease. Tai chi can also help you to increase leg strength and overall balance.

10. Safe for people with coronary heart disease

Tai chi is a safe form of moderate exercise you can try if you have coronary heart disease. Following a cardiovascular event, regular tai chi practices may help you:

  • increase physical activity
  • lose weight
  • improve your quality of life

11. Reduces pain from arthritis

In a small-scale 2010 study, 15 participants with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the participants reported less pain and improved mobility and balance.

A larger, earlier study found similar results in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). In this study, 40 participants with knee OA practiced 60 minutes of tai chi, two times a week for 12 weeks. Following the study, participants reported a reduction in pain and an improvement in mobility and quality of life.

When compared to physical therapy, tai chi has also been found to be as effective in the treatment of knee OA.

Always talk to your doctor before starting tai chi if you have arthritis. You may need to do modified versions of some of the movements.

Is tai chi safe?

Tai chi is generally considered to be a safe exercise with few side effects. You may experience some aches or pains after practicing tai chi if you’re a beginner. More rigorous forms of tai chi and improper practice of tai chi are associated with increased risk of injury to joints. Especially if you’re new to tai chi, consider attending a class or working with an instructor to reduce your risk of injury.

If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.

How to start tai chi

Tai chi focuses on proper posture and exact movements, something that is difficult to learn on your own. If you’re new to tai chi, take a class or get an instructor.

Tai chi is taught in studios all over the United States and other countries. Larger gyms, like the YMCA, sometimes offer tai chi classes as well.

Choosing a tai chi style

There are five different styles of tai chi, and each style can be modified to suit your goals and personal fitness level. All styles of tai chi incorporate continuous movement from one pose to the next.

  • Yang style tai chi focuses on slow, graceful movements and relaxation. Yang style is a good starting point for beginners.
  • Wu style tai chi places an emphasis on micro-movements. This style of tai chi is practiced very slowly.
  • Chen style tai chi uses both slow and fast movements. This style of tai chi might be difficult for you if you’re new to the practice.
  • Sun style tai chi shares a lot of similarities with Chen style. Sun style involves less crouching, kicking, and punching, making it less physically demanding.
  • Hao style tai chi is a lesser-known and rarely practiced style. This style of tai chi is defined by a focus on accurate position and internal strength.

How does tai chi differ from yoga?

Tai chi emphasizes fluid movement and has roots in Chinese culture. Yoga focuses on posing and originated in Northern India.

Both tai chi and yoga are forms of exercise that involve meditation and deep breathing, and they have similar benefits, such as:

  • relieves stress
  • improves mood
  • Improves sleep

Takeaway

Tai chi is an exercise that can benefit both healthy adults and adults living with a chronic condition.

The benefits of tai chi include:

  • better sleep
  • weight loss
  • improved mood
  • management of chronic conditions

If you’re interested in trying tai chi, an instructor can help you get started. Classes are offered in specialized studios, community centers, and gyms.

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We’re All Glued To Our Screens Right Now. Here’s How You Can Protect Your Eyes

With much of the globe now under coronavirus-related restrictions, we have never been so tethered to our screens – for work, to connect with friends, to unwind or to distract ourselves.

One new estimate suggested that adults are spending more than 13 hours a day using screens, a spike up from 10 hours a day a year ago.

With children cut off from physically attending school, they are more reliant on laptops and tablets for online lessons and entertainment.

And with our new routines likely to have a lot more screen time for the foreseeable future, experts say it’s important to learn how to protect our eyes from suffering as a result.

While there is no evidence of long-term eye damage from extended use of smartphones, computer screens or other devices, prolonged use can sometimes lead to blurred vision, eye fatigue, dry or irritated eyes and headaches, according to Moorfield Eye Hospital in London.

Dr. Raj Maturi, the clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a retina specialist, called these symptoms “digital vision syndrome.”

He, along with the doctors at the Moorfield Eye Hospital, recommended a 20-20-20 approach — for every 20 minutes spent at a screen you must take a break and look 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.

“When you are looking at a close target, your eyes are just training that one muscle at all time, and looking into the distance can relieve it,” he said.

Don’t forget to blink

While it’s close work, rather than screen use per se, that strains our eyes. Dr Maturi said that looking at bright devices can make us blink less, which leaves our eyes feeling dry.

“When things are bright, we blink less. It’s behavioral. So we can train ourselves to blink more often and blink fully,” he said.

If you’re already suffering from dry eyes, he recommended the use of artificial tears. Moorfields Eye Hospital also suggested using a humidifier, as well as making sure your work station is set up correctly.

The top of your computer screen should be in line with your eyes and about 18 to 30 inches from where you’re sitting and tilted back slightly, the hospital said in a blog post in April.

Dr. Rachel Bishop, a spokesperson for the National Eye Institute, agreed that where your screen is positioned is important.

“If you are looking down, then your eyelid is shut a bit and you’re not having as much evaporation – which can help prevent dry eyes. If you’re looking up high, your eye dries much quicker,” she said.

Other steps you can take include dimming the surrounding lights so that the screen is brighter in comparison and cleaning your computer screen regularly to avoid dust buildup, which can obscure the screen and cause eye irritation.

If you or your children continue to have vision problems after making these fixes, experts recommended seeking advice from an ophthalmologist or optician as it could be a sign of an uncorrected eye problem like long-sightedness or astigmatism.

If you’re older than your late 30s and unable to see an eye care professional because of lockdown restrictions, there would be no harm in buying a cheap pair of drugstore reading glasses and seeing if they help, said Bishop.

“The focusing muscle in your eye changes as you age. You can focus up close when you’re 20 for hours at a time and have no problems. But that ability declines as you age,” said Dr Bishop.

“For people who aren’t eager to have a medical appointment, the first thing is to try on some low-strength, over-the-counter reading glasses. Hold up something to read and pick the lowest number you can comfortably read at the distance you like to work,” she said.

Blue light

Another potential concern is the “blue light” that digital devices emit, but Dr. Maturi said this affects our body clock, rather than our vision. But it’s something worth paying attention to – especially for kids who can get overstimulated easily.

“When we go outside we look at a blue sky, that’s blue light,” he said. “The issue with blue light is at night. It can delay your ability to sleep quickly,” he said.

He suggested that people turn their devices to night mode or use e-readers with screens that more closely resemble a physical book. The key was to look at how many nits a display had – a measurement of luminance or brightness, he added.

To protect kids’ eyes, parents should encourage them to spend as much time outside as possible – within restrictions that are in place where you live to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The past two decades have seen a massive increase in myopia or short-sightedness among children – and while scientists can’t agree on exactly what has caused this rise and whether there’s any link to screen use, they do know that spending time outdoors, especially in early childhood, can slow its progression.

“We should know more in a few years when research comes up with more answers, but for parents they have a dilemma because the school is now brought into the screen and kids social engagement are now brought into the screen and kids are playing their games on a screen,” said Bishop.

 

By Katie Hunt, CNN      Fri May 1, 2020
 
source: www.cnn.com
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Is all this screen time damaging my eyes?
(Yes. But here’s what to do)

Between Zoom meetings, ordering groceries online, Instagram videos, Face Time, checking the Canadian coronavirus map, endless chats with friends over Messenger, digital symptom trackers, and, of course, bingeing Tiger King, screen time is at an all-time high.

Digital media has emerged as a hero in the covid-19 pandemic, since it’s making remote work possible and social media platforms now provide a lifeline to those of us who feel isolated. But if you do both, as I do, that’s a lot of screen time, even before I start streaming The Plot Against America (must-watch, by the way). Since I’m already nearsighted, I wondered if this lockdown was going to do permanent damage.

I asked Dr. Ritesh Patel, Optometrist at Toronto’s See and Be Seen Eyecare , for a little advice, starting with some straight talk about how much screen time is too much. Apparently, anything over two or three hours is considered too much. Whoops.

“Whether that’s realistic or not is a different story,” says Patel. “So for people spending more time in front of screens, we try to recommend something called 20-20-20, which means that every 20 minutes you should give your eyes a 20-second break by looking 20 feet away, which allows you to refocus your eyes.”

And, thanks to the hand-washing regimen we’ve all recently learned, we should know how long 20 seconds really is—two Happy Birthday songs; the break from “Kiss Off” by the Violent Femmes, or the chorus to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Your choice.

Taking a 20-second breather to look out the window may not seem like the most important part of our new regimen that sees us take measures to avoid the novel coronavirus, avoid transmitting it to others, quell the rising tides of anxiety and find some way to stay physically active in our small spaces, but protecting our vision is an important piece too. It’s more than just the worry that we’ll all be getting new prescriptions, since too much blue UV light, which is emitted from our screens, can cause other problems.

“The devices can cause strain on your eyes, fatigue and, potentially, headaches but they also impact other things such as sleeping patterns,” Patel explains. “So, if you’re using your phone before you go to sleep, your brain is tricked into thinking it’s daytime instead of night time so your sleeping patterns are, of course, impacted as well which has an effect on cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s a bigger picture and a systemic issue as well.”

Patel advises cutting off the screens two hours before bed. I asked him if that included Netflix and, sadly, it does. Although he did say that, if the TV was far away, it was at least less damaging than staring right into tablets and laptops close-up.

And that principle can also guide us to design vision-friendly home office set-ups. Casting your work to a TV a few feet away is an improvement over working on a desktop or laptop, which, aside from producing eye strain, can also interfere with our normal blinking patterns.

“We don’t realize this but, as soon as we get in front of a screen and get into our zone, we blink a lot less,” Patel says. “Instead of blinking every two to three seconds, you start blinking every four to five seconds and that’s a significant decrease.”

Reduced blinking can make our eyes feel dry, itchy, sensitive to light, red and even lead to more bacteria getting stuck in the eyes, which could lead to infections. He recommends “blinking exercises,” which involve closing your eyes for five seconds and then again for 10 seconds at regular intervals throughout the day.

“I kind of equate it to yoga, how you become conscious about your breathing and realize you take a lot of shallow breaths in your everyday life,” he says. “Breathing and blinking kind of go hand-in-hand, because you don’t think about it, they just happened literally 10,000 times per day, but it feels good to take a deep breath or close your eyes for a break and give your eyes the moisture levels they need.”

Patel recommends looking into technological solutions as well. Many phones and tablets have something in their settings called “Night Shift,” which reduces the brightness of the light and Patel advises leaving that on all the time—not just at night. There’s also software available to filter out the blue light, such as f.lux. And there are plenty of apps to nudge you to do the 20-20-20 thing and take frequent breaks, since some of us will inevitably forget to look away from the screen if we get really engrossed in our work. And “Screen Time,” itself, which tells you how much time you’ve spent on any given device is helpful, too.

Says Patel: “It definitely boils down to awareness, right? If you’re not even aware of the fact that this is an excessive amount of time spent on the computer, then it’s not even going to cross your mind. But if you have a timer that tells you it’s time to take a break now, you might do it.”

By Christine Sismondo    Special to the Star         Mon., April 13, 2020
Christine Sismondo is a Toronto-based writer and contributor to the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @sismondo


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This Is Your Body And Brain On Coffee

Drinking more caffeine lately? Here’s how it can affect you over time and advice on making it better for you.

An industry survey estimated that 64% of Americans drank a cup of coffee every day. And with good reason: There are tons of health benefits.

For example, studies have linked coffee to a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. But, as with most good things, too much of it may have negative consequences.

Coffee ― and we don’t mean decaf ― can be a treatment or a trigger for health concerns, depending on a number of variables, including how much you consume, how frequently you consume it, how it’s prepared and your health history. Here are some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of drinking coffee.

Coffee is often touted for its disease-fighting properties. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in coffee are likely responsible for the association between coffee drinking and the reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer (including oral cancers).

Those antioxidants, however, won’t necessarily offset the negative effects of the sugars, syrups and creamers you add.

“If you now load your coffee with sugars and other things that increase inflammation or you have coffee with that big muffin, then the anti-inflammatory or antioxidants in the coffee will not be able to counteract that at all,” said Zhaoping Li, a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Black coffee may help reduce body fat.
One study found that drinking four cups of coffee daily was associated with a reduction in body fat of roughly 4%. (But, again, that was without cream and sugar.)

The caffeine in coffee may raise metabolism, potentially burning more calories and leading to reduced body fat, said Derrick Johnston Alperet, the study’s co-author and a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Our study results and evidence from previous studies suggest that regular coffee intake may aid in weight loss and in achieving better overall health if it is incorporated into a healthful diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, but less of sugar and artificially sweetened beverages and processed and red meat,” Alperet said.

Coffee could help extend your life.
Regular coffee drinkers tend to live longer. Coffee drinkers are less likely to die of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

Caffeine puts your brain on alert.
We can’t talk about coffee without addressing the thing people think of first: caffeine. Caffeine — which occurs naturally in coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans — is a dietary component, not a nutrient. It stimulates the central nervous system, causing you to feel more alert.

“Obviously, when you’re alert, you’re able to concentrate and perform mentally,” UCLA’s Li said. That’s why so many of us turn to coffee to start our day or as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Of course, you’ll also find caffeine in other beverages, including brewed black tea, brewed green tea and caffeinated soda. In terms of natural beverages, though, coffee has the highest concentration of caffeine, Li said.

Different types of coffee can have different amounts of caffeine. A single fluid ounce of brewed coffee will have roughly 12 milligrams of caffeine; a similar amount of instant coffee will have only 8 milligrams, while an ounce of espresso will have a whopping 64 milligrams, according to the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020.

Low to moderate amounts of caffeine (50 to 300 milligrams) can increase alertness, energy and the ability to concentrate, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Higher doses, however, can lead to negative effects.

“Sometimes people aren’t aware that the side effects they’re having are due to coffee or something else,” such as stress or diet, said Donald Hensrud, director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and editor of the Mayo Clinic Diet.

For example, several things can contribute to heartburn, including eating too late, gaining weight or consuming certain types of food or beverages — including coffee.

People who experience anxiety should also take a look at their coffee habits and if coffee could be affecting their symptoms. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions in the country, affecting 40 million adults 18 and older. Research suggests that more than 250 milligrams of caffeine — the amount in about 2½ cups of coffee — may trigger anxiety in some people.

Pregnant women are often advised to limit caffeine, but recommendations on how much can vary.

Coffee makes you pee more.
Caffeine is thought to be a diuretic. Coffee can increase urination and act as a bladder irritant. For people who experience bladder control problems, this can worsen their symptoms, Hensrud said.

Coffee can either help or heal headaches, depending on a few unique factors.
The caffeine in coffee can be either a treatment or a trigger for headaches. On the one hand, caffeine blocks brain receptors associated with pain and relieves headache pain, said Elizabeth Mostofsky, an epidemiology instructor at the Chan School and research fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

It can also make other pain medications as much as 40% more effective, Mostofsky added.

But drinking more than three caffeinated beverages a day may actually trigger a headache in people prone to migraines.

Have you ever had a cup of coffee late in the afternoon and then wound up starring at your bedroom ceiling until 2 a.m.? Or can you enjoy a cappuccino after dinner and then sleep soundly that night?

Each person’s body processes caffeine a bit differently, based on his or her tolerance and metabolism. The “awake” feeling we get from drinking coffee can last up to six hours or so, depending on the individual, Li said.

If you notice that you’re still feeling the effects of an afternoon coffee at bedtime, Hensrud advised cutting off coffee earlier in the day.

So how much coffee is OK?
The potential health benefits of drinking coffee are clear. But there’s no advice telling you to start drinking coffee if you don’t already.

“I think if you like coffee, coffee is part of your healthy diet,” Li said. “If you’re not a coffee drinker, there is no necessity to drinking coffee. You can drink tea or water.”

Li added that green tea has much less caffeine than coffee and also happens to be a great source of antioxidants. Decaf coffee can also provide some of the benefits of regular coffee without the effects of caffeine.

Regular coffee drinkers might be looking for that magic number of cups they should drink to feel their best. Dietary guidelines say that moderate coffee consumption is three to five cups per day (providing up to 400 milligrams per day of caffeine).

“Studies are showing if you have about three cups — some studies are showing four cups — a day, it’s definitely safe,” Li said.

Like most things with diet, though, it really comes down to moderation and paying attention to your body.

“The end result of a lot of things in nutrition is practicality and enjoyment,” Hensrud said. “Sometimes people get lost in the weeds or the details. For example, there are no guidelines for people to start drinking coffee if they don’t. If you enjoy it, drink it, and if you’re having side effects, cut back. I like to bring it back to a practical level and let people decide for themselves.”

Kristin Lesko                 04/23/2020
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The Healthiest Way To Brew Your Coffee
– And Possibly Lengthen Your Life

For many of us, the day doesn’t start off right until we have that cuppa joe.

Just the aroma of that dark, rich brew can get our senses stirring, ready for the mood boost we know is coming.

And it turns out that coffee’s not just fine for your health, it may even lengthen your life — but only if you prepare it with a filter, according to a new long-term study published Wednesday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

“Unfiltered coffee contains substances which increase blood cholesterol. Using a filter removes these and makes heart attacks and premature death less likely,” said study author Dag Thelle, a senior professor in the public health and community medicine department of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

“Our study provides strong and convincing evidence of a link between coffee brewing methods, heart attacks and longevity,” Thelle said.

That’s bad news for lovers of coffee made with the French press, or cafetière, that is so popular today, or those fond of strong Greek and Turkish brewing methods. Boiling coffee or using a coffee press can actually increase your risk of heart disease.

“Unfiltered coffee, like Greek and Turkish coffee, which is boiled, or coffee made in a French press contain higher amounts of cafestol and kahweol – chemicals found in oil droplets floating in the coffee and also in the sediment,” said registered dietitian Lisa Drayer, a CNN health and nutrition contributor.

“Studies have shown that these substances can raise triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol levels,” Drayer said. “So stick with filtered coffee, such as a paper filter that you would use in a drip-brewed coffee, which can help to trap these chemicals.”

Drinking filtered coffee better for health

The new study followed over half a million healthy Norwegian men and women between the ages of 20 and 79 over a 20-year period.

Results showed drinking boiled or pressed unfiltered coffee raised the risk of death in men aged 60 and above, due to elevated cardiovascular mortality.

But drinking filtered coffee – that through a paper filter, for example, was found to be healthier than drinking no coffee at all.

Filtered coffee was linked to a 15% reduced risk of death from any cause, a 12% decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease in men and a 20% lowered risk of death from heart disease in women when compared to drinking no coffee.

In fact, the study found those who drank one to four cups of filtered coffee per day had the lowest mortality rate.

“The finding that those drinking the filtered beverage did a little better than those not drinking coffee at all could not be explained by any other variable such as age, gender or lifestyle habits. So we think this observation is true,” Thelle said.

Evidence-based recommendations

The findings echo other research highlighting coffee’s health benefits. According to the American Heart Association, filtered coffee can sharpen your mental focus, boost mood and improve performance during exercise.

The British Medical Journal published a huge umbrella study in 2017 that looked at over 200 meta-analyses of the health benefits of coffee and that found drinking three to fours cups of black coffee a day provides the most health benefits overall.

Those included lowering the risk of heart disease; numerous types of cancer; and neurological, metabolic and liver disorders; as well as overall mortality. Other studies have found coffee reduces the risk for melanoma, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, computer-related back pain and more.

Of course, nothing is perfect. There are some reasons you may want to limit or avoid coffee.

Watch your sleep. “If you have trouble falling asleep, it’s best to avoid coffee and all sources of caffeine in the evening or close to bedtime,” Drayer suggested.

Careful if you’re at risk for fractures. The British Medical Journal analysis found high levels of coffee consumption (over four cups a day) was associated with a higher risk of fractures in women who already had a greater likelihood, but not in men.

Pregnant women should also be wary. Higher levels of coffee consumption were found to increase risk for preterm births and stillbirths, as well as low birth weight in babies. This is possibly due to the fact that the half-life of caffeine is known to double during pregnancy, raising the dose of caffeine per cup, according to the study.

Not for those with Parkinson’s. A study published in September 2017 reversed opinion on the benefits for Parkinson’s disease, which was long thought to be helped by caffeine. Researchers who first found that coffee reduced tremors in those with Parkinson’s went back and studied a larger sample of patients for a longer time. This time, they found no difference between those taking caffeine tablets and those taking a placebo. After the initial data came back negative, the study was stopped.

But for the vast majority of us, coffee is just fine, experts said.

“For people who know they have high cholesterol levels and want to do something about it, stay away from unfiltered brew, including coffee made with a cafetière,” Thelle said. “For everyone else, drink your coffee with a clear conscience and go for filtered.”

To keep your coffee consumption even more healthy, Drayer suggested the following tips:

Add low-fat milk and skip the cream. “Cream contributes about 50 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon,” Drayer said, adding that low-fat milk has fewer calories and will help to offset calcium losses (a tablespoon has only 6 calories, but 19 milligrams of calcium).

Avoid sugar in your coffee. “A teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. It may not sound like much, but if you add two teaspoons to your brew and drink a few cups per day, the calories add up,” she said.

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN    Wed April 22, 2020

 

 

Instant Coffee: Good or Bad?

Instant coffee is very popular in many areas of the world.

It may even account for more than 50% of all coffee consumption in some countries.

Instant coffee is also faster, cheaper, and easier to make than regular coffee.

You may know that drinking regular coffee is linked to many health benefits but wonder whether the same benefits apply to instant coffee.

This article explains everything you need to know about instant coffee and its health effects.

What is instant coffee?

Instant coffee is a type of coffee made from dried coffee extract.

Similarly to how regular coffee is brewed, the extract is made by brewing ground coffee beans, although it’s more concentrated.

After brewing, the water is removed from the extract to make dry fragments or powder, both of which dissolve when added to water.

There are two main ways to make instant coffee:

  • Spray-drying. Coffee extract is sprayed into hot air, which quickly dries the droplets and turns them into fine powder or small pieces.
  • Freeze-drying. The coffee extract is frozen and cut into small fragments, which are then dried at a low temperature under vacuum conditions.

Both methods preserve the quality, aroma, and flavor of the coffee.

The most common way to prepare instant coffee is to add one teaspoon of powder to a cup of hot water.

The strength of the coffee can easily be adjusted by adding more or less powder to your cup.

SUMMARY
Instant coffee is made from brewed coffee that has had the water removed. To make instant coffee, simply add one teaspoon of powder to a cup of warm water.

Instant coffee contains antioxidants and nutrients

Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the modern diet.

Its high antioxidant content is believed to be responsible for many of its associated health benefits.

Like regular coffee, instant coffee contains many powerful antioxidants.

According to one study, instant coffee may contain even higher amounts of certain antioxidants than other brews, due to the way it is processed.

Furthermore, one standard cup of instant coffee contains only 7 calories and small amounts of potassium, magnesium, and niacin (vitamin B3).

SUMMARY
Instant coffee is full of powerful antioxidants. It may even contain higher amounts of some antioxidants than other types of coffee.

Instant coffee contains slightly less caffeine

Caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, and coffee is its biggest dietary source.

However, instant coffee generally contains slightly less caffeine than regular coffee.

One cup of instant coffee containing one teaspoon of powder may contain 30–90 mg of caffeine, while one cup of regular coffee contains 70–140 mg.

Since sensitivity to caffeine varies by individual, instant coffee may be a better choice for those who need to cut back on caffeine.

Instant coffee is also available in decaf, which contains even less caffeine.

Too much caffeine may cause anxiety, disrupted sleep, restlessness, upset stomach, tremors, and a fast heartbeat.

SUMMARY
A cup of instant coffee containing one teaspoon of powder generally contains 30–90 mg of caffeine, while regular coffee contains 70–140 mg per cup.

Instant coffee contains more acrylamide

Acrylamide is a potentially harmful chemical that forms when coffee beans are roasted.

This chemical is also commonly found in a wide range of foods, smoke, household items, and personal care products.

Interestingly, instant coffee may contain up to twice as much acrylamide as fresh, roasted coffee.

Overexposure to acrylamide may damage the nervous system and increase the risk of cancer.

However, the amount of acrylamide you’re exposed to through diet and coffee is much lower than the amount that has been shown to be harmful.

Therefore, drinking instant coffee should not cause concern regarding acrylamide exposure.

SUMMARY
Instant coffee contains up to twice as much acrylamide as regular coffee, but this amount is still lower than the amount considered to be harmful.

Like regular coffee, instant coffee may have several health benefits

Drinking coffee has been linked to many health benefits.

Given that instant coffee contains the same antioxidants and nutrients as regular coffee, it should provide most of the same health effects.

Drinking instant coffee may:

  • Enhance brain function. Its caffeine content can improve brain function.
  • Boost metabolism. Its caffeine may increase metabolism and help you burn more fat.
  • Reduce disease risk. Coffee may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • Decrease diabetes risk. Coffee may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Improve liver health. Coffee and caffeine may reduce the risk of liver diseases like cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • Improve mental health. Coffee may help lower the risk of depression and suicide.
  • Promote longevity. Drinking coffee may help you live longer.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these studies were observational.

These types of studies can’t prove that coffee causes a reduced risk of disease — only that people who habitually drink coffee are less likely to develop disease.

If you’re wondering how much coffee to drink, consuming 3–5 cups of instant coffee each day may be optimal. Studies have often linked this amount to the highest risk reductions.

SUMMARY
Instant coffee offers most of the same health benefits as regular coffee, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and liver disease.

The bottom line
Instant coffee is quick, easy, and doesn’t require a coffee maker. It also has a very long shelf life and is cheaper than regular coffee.

Therefore, it may be very handy when you’re traveling or on the go.

Instant coffee contains slightly less caffeine and more acrylamide than regular coffee, but it contains most of the same antioxidants.

Overall, instant coffee is a healthy, low-calorie beverage that is linked to the same health benefits as other types of coffee.

Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice)        October 8, 2019


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7 Elements of Wisdom That Can Make You Happier as You Age

Despite aches and pains, the wisdom that comes with age can make you happier.

Despite more physical aches and pains as we age—the ‘paradox of aging’ suggests that older people are generally more comfortable in their own skin, feel better about themselves, and grow happier in their lives year after year…decade after decade.

Nora Ephron once said, “Looking back, it seems to me that I was clueless until I was about 50 years old.” As someone who just entered my sixth decade of life, I concur. The inherent wisdom that comes from life experience makes it easier to cope with the pitfalls of aging. Empirical evidence also suggests that lots of people get happier as they get older.

A new study by age researchers at the University of California, San Diego, reports that despite having more physical ailments, older adults living in southern California tend to be happier and have markedly better mental health than their younger counterparts.

The August 2016 study, “Paradoxical Trend for Improvement in Mental Health With Aging,” appears in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

For this study, senior author Dilip Jeste, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Center on Healthy Aging at UC San Diego, and colleagues collected data via phone interviews on the physical health, cognitive function, and other measures of mental health in 1,546 adults, ages 21 to 100 years living in San Diego county.

Jeste emphasizes that this study wasn’t restricted to psychological well-being, but included other markers of mental health. One caveat about this demographic—and the cross-sectional method of collecting information—is that these findings only provide a snapshot of a limited geographic area at one-moment-in-time and are not longitudinal.

The Wisdom of Aging Facilitates an Upward Spiral of Psychological Well-Being
The researchers found a substantial improvement to psychological well-being among older adults that followed a linear trajectory—which improved year after year once people got over the hump of the colloquial “midlife crisis.” The linear nature of the findings surprised the researchers. In fact, the oldest cohort in this study had mental health scores significantly better than the youngest cohort.

Across the board, the participants in their 20s and 30s reported higher levels of perceived stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Alarmingly, this period of early midlife was associated with far worse levels of psychological well-being than any other period of adulthood, which is cause for concern.

These findings turn conventional notions of aging upside down. Aging in the 21st century doesn’t appear to be an unavoidable process of physical and cognitive decline. In a statement, Jeste said, “Some cognitive decline over time is inevitable, but its effect is clearly not uniform and in many people, not clinically significant—at least in terms of impacting their sense of well-being and enjoyment of life.”

In terms of causation, the specific reasons for improved positive mental health in old age are difficult to pin down. That said, below are seven elements of wisdom that I’ve found make people happier as they age based on empirical evidence and life experience.

7 Elements of Wisdom for Aging Gracefully by Bergland

  • Stop holding grudges against yourself and others.
  • Embrace who you are, warts and all.
  • Vocalize your imperfections shamelessly.
  • Practice conscientious emotional regulation.
  • Stay even-keel via equanimity.
  • Apologize wholeheartedly for any wrong-doing.
  • Move on! Let go of negative emotions and regrets.

As we age, many people inherently learn the above elements of wisdom through life experience. That said, over the years I’ve found that having an itemized punch list of target mindsets and behaviors makes it easier to expedite your learning curve.

Conclusion: It Really Is “Getting So Much Better (All the Time)”
From a public health perspective, Jeste is concerned that the rates of psychological distress and mental illness in young people are rising at an alarming rate. Also, other studies have shown that mortality rates among specific middle-aged groups have skyrocketed in the past ten years. In a statement, Jeste concluded,

“Inadequate attention has been paid to mental health issues that continue or get exacerbated post-adolescence. We need to understand mechanisms underlying better mental health in older age in spite of more physical ailments. That would help develop broad-based interventions to promote mental health in all age groups, including youth.”

The latest research reminds us all that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for anyone in an earlier stage of life, or in midlife, who is feeling malcontent or suffering from depression. I’ve lived through this myself. As an adolescent—and again in my late 30s—I suffered major depressive episodes (MDE) that included suicidal ideation. Hang in there. I am living proof that it really does start getting better at a certain point in life. If you are suicidal, please seek assistance: <U.S.> http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/       <Canada>  https://www.suicideprevention.ca/need-help

Below is a passage I wrote for The Athlete’s Way over a decade ago—just months after getting through a harrowing MDE. This advice has continued to work for me over the subsequent years. If you are currently struggling with mental health issues, hopefully, these insights will be helpful for you, too.

“When life throws me a curveball, I have learned from experience to be proactive and reach out to friends and mental health professionals to help me through. When you are in the blackest of blackness, the light seems like it will never enter your brain again. But it will. The light will flicker again. That is the human spirit; it always, always comes back. I’ve been there myself. If you are depressed or suicidal do whatever you have to do to stay vital and get yourself back on track.
You were born to be alive. Don’t isolate. Reach out. Ask for help. There will be sunbeams in your soul again. Ride out the storm—but don’t do it alone. People will take care of you. Let them. And make a vow, when you’re back on top, to give something back.”

 

Christopher Bergland       Aug 29, 2016

 

smile

Express Gratitude
– Not Because You Will Benefit From It,
But Others Might

The world is currently in the midst of a pandemic where the most useful thing many of us can do is stay at home and keep away from others. Schools, restaurants, office buildings and movie theaters are closed. Many people are feeling disoriented, disconnected and scared.

At this time of soaring infection rates, shortages of medical supplies and economic downturns, there are also examples of people looking for ways to express their gratitude to those on the front lines of fighting the epidemic. In many European countries, for example, people are expressing gratitude for the work of the medical staff by clapping from their balconies. Recently, this same practice has migrated to New York City.

As psychology researchers, we have been working to study the connection between gratitude and well-being.

Gratitude and well-being connection
In 2013, psychologists Robert Emmons and Robin Stern explained gratitude as both appreciating the good things in life and recognizing that they come from someone else.

There is a strong correlation between gratitude and well-being. Researchers have found that individuals who report feeling and expressing gratitude more report a greater level of positive emotions such as happiness, optimism and joy.

At the same time, they have a lower level of negative emotions such as anger, distress, depression and shame. They also report a higher level of life satisfaction.

Furthermore, grateful individuals report a greater sense of purpose in life, more forgiveness and better quality of relationships, and they even seem to sleep better.

In short, grateful individuals seem to have more of the ingredients needed to thrive and flourish.

There are several plausible explanations for the apparent connection between gratitude and well-being. It may be that gratitude serves as a positive lens through which to view the world.

For example, grateful individuals may be inclined to see the good in people and situations, which may result in a more compassionate and less critical view of others and themselves.

Grateful individuals may also be naturally prone to forming mutually supportive relationships. When someone expresses gratitude, the recipient is more likely to connect with that person and to invest in that relationship in the future.

Gratitude exercises have weak effects
However, there is one important caveat to this research. It shows that gratitude is correlated with well-being, but it does not prove that expressing gratitude actually improves well-being.

Psychologists have conducted a number of experiments to see if giving thanks leads to greater well-being. For example, individuals may be asked to perform gratitude exercises at home and then report on their well-being afterward. These exercises include writing a thank-you letter or keeping a journal of things one is thankful for.

Several review papers over the past four years, including our recent paper, indicate that these gratitude exercises have fairly weak effects on well-being.

These review papers combine the findings from multiple different studies, which allows researchers to be more confident that the findings are consistent and can be trusted.

Researchers found that such gratitude exercises only increase happiness and life satisfaction a little bit. Similarly, the effect on symptoms of depression and anxiety was also small.

Express gratitude to help others
We are not suggesting that expressing gratitude has no value. Rather, we argue that gratitude should not be thought of as a self-help tool to increase one’s own happiness and well-being.

Instead, gratitude may be most valuable as a way of honoring and acknowledging someone else. Indeed, researchers have found that expressions of gratitude lead to improved relationships for both the one expressing gratitude and the recipient. The lead researcher of a 2010 study – psychologist Sara Algoe – concluded that for romantic relationships, gratitude worked like a “booster shot.”

During this global pandemic, perhaps it is more important than ever to express gratitude to the important people in our lives – not just loved ones, but the countless public officials, health care professionals and others who are fighting on the front lines.

April 2, 2020 
 
Jennifer Cheavens          Associate Professor of Psychology, The Ohio State University
David Cregg       Doctoral Candidate in Clinical Psychology, The Ohio State University
 
Disclosure statement
Jennifer Cheavens receives funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
She is also under contract with Cambridge University Press and receives compensation for editorial duties from John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
 
David Cregg does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article,
and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
 
Partners
The Ohio State University       /      The Ohio State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

 


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Long-Term Social Distancing May Be Traumatic. Here Is What To Expect And What To Do

Passover, Easter and Ramadan are occasions that typically bring families together to pray, reflect and celebrate – fellowship needed, perhaps, now more than ever – will look different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The loss of those traditions is added to a growing list of losses that North Americans are facing as they endure at least another month of social distancing and with it an extended departure from routines, habits, social circles and normalcy.

The protracted disruption to life as it was, mental health experts say, could bring feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and even grief.

“There is literal grief like losing loved ones,” said Dr. Vaile Wright, the American Psychology Association’s director of clinical research. “But there is a grief of experiences that we are losing right now. There can feel like there is a lot of loss right now, a loss of freedom, a lot of things we took for granted.”

The next few months may take a toll on the nation’s mental health, experts say, but it is possible to mitigate the stress.

North Americans’ collective trauma

Extended isolation and stress from the pandemic can affect everyone differently, said Dr. Dana Garfin, a health psychologist.

It could put strain on families, send children home to abusive situations, make those living alone feel isolated and threaten people’s sense of purpose by keeping them from work, Garfin said.

And those experiencing financial insecurity in the midst of the pandemic have an added stress that is difficult to resolve, said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Despite those differences, the experience of staying home together through a pandemic can be considered a collective trauma, said Garfin, who studies collective traumas such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

Collective traumas start at some point of impact and then ripple out to loved ones of the afflicted, witnesses to the devastation and people whose lives are disrupted.

In this case, many Americans fall into one or more of those categories. People in quarantine show signs of confusion, depression and anger, Garfin said.

“We necessarily run much of our lives by habit,” said Fischhoff. “We know what we have for breakfast, we know how to prepare the kids for school, and that enables us to get through the day reasonably well.”

But now that many North Americans aren’t waking up and going to school and work, it can be difficult to know how to restructure even the most rote daily habits that won’t be coming back for weeks yet.

What life might look like on the other side of coronavirus

How long the pandemic and the isolation continue will dictate how severe the effects are on people’s mental health, Garfin said.

Prolonged exposure to the traumas of coronavirus can activate the fight or flight response, which over time can cause cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression and PTSD, Garfin said. And the extended isolation can contribute to fear, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating, said Wright.

For some groups, like health care workers, those in the media and people in newly deemed “essential jobs,” the end result may be guilt, grief and PTSD, said Wright.

But, Wright and Garfin agreed, humans are resilient.

Some may forget everything they just went through and go back to their daily lives when it is all over, Wright said, but many can come out of this with stronger relationships and a better perspective on what is important.

How to get through it

The future is uncertain, but life will be different for at least the next month and that knowledge can be the first step to making this new, temporary reality as good as it can be.

Now that it is clear the change is for more than a couple of weeks, it is important to create a new routine – one that includes showering, getting dressed and maintaining family meals — not treating the time as an extended snow day or spring vacation, Wright said.

There is an opportunity for people to develop new habits around the disruption, which can relieve the stress of feeling like starting from scratch every day, Fischhoff said.

And all three say it is important to use social media to be social, not to feed the anxiety that conflicting coronavirus information on the platform stokes.

They also agree that this experience is difficult, and it is important to acknowledge that and not be too critical of what one could have done before or could be doing now.

“I think that we need to recognize that this is totally unprecedented, and we really are just doing the best we can – and that’s OK,” Wright said. And for people doing the best they can but struggling to work, study or care for their families, virtual mental health resources may be a crucial next step.

And for those who are lonely and isolated, Garfin suggests reframing for a feeling of community within that experience.

“We aren’t in our houses alone, we are doing something for each other for our community,” Garfin said. “It’s a shared effort, something that we are all a part of and something we are all contributing to.”
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not permanent.”

 

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN       Thu April 9, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
plan

Take A Breath:
How The Simple Act Of Meditative Breathing
Helps Us Cope

A global pandemic causes so much worry, concern and fear. There’s the pressure of suddenly being a homeschooling parent and trying to create structure around newfound chaos in your home.

A lot of us are adjusting to working from home, all while tending to worries about the state of the world. Maybe you fret over the health of aging parents or feel anxious over the ever-changing news cycle.

Psychological stress can damper your overall health, affecting your ability to remain resilient in the face of challenges. It can also thwart a strong immune system, which is needed to keep from getting sick.

“Living through a pandemic can be scary,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the March 18 episode of CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast.

The good news: Meditation is one tool that can help our immune systems functioning optimally, according to a recent study.

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is by simply focusing your attention on your breath, according to Harvard Medical School, since it’s a form of beginner level meditation that anyone can do.

Alternative medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra, in Dr. Gupta’s podcast episode titled “Pandemic Panic,” walks us through how to do a breathing meditation to ease our stress, thus calming our minds.

Breathing through the stress of a pandemic

According to Harvard Medical School, breathing meditation requires either sitting comfortably, standing or walking in a setting with minimal distractions. Many people prefer to sit.

If you’re sitting, focus first on your posture: You should sit with your spine erect.

As you become aware of the space you’re in and sit comfortably, observe your breath without manipulating it for a few seconds, Chopra suggests.

Then, slow your breath down by inhaling deeply to the count of six.

Pause for two seconds.

Exhale to the count of four. Then repeat this six-two-four breathing method for two minutes.

“Then, when you’re done with that, bring your awareness into your body and wherever there seems to be any discomfort, just bring the awareness there without manipulating it,” Chopra said. “Awareness by itself heals. Awareness without conceptual intervention restores self-regulation.”

“The goal is really to breathe from your diaphragm,” as opposed to shallow breaths from your chest, said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.

“And the way to know whether you’re doing that or not, or a trick at least, is to place your hand just below your ribs on your stomach.” When you inhale you should feel your body expanding, then contracting when you inhale.

If the initial peace is interrupted by your thoughts, the meditation isn’t a failure. Though breathing meditations are simple to begin with, they can take practice before you’re able to maintain focus for an extended period of time, Wright said. Just acknowledge the thought and try to let it go.

You don’t have to concentrate on any format, but some people find that adding some sort of mantra or visualization to it helps, Wright said.

“For example, when you’re breathing in, telling yourself [in your head that] you’re breathing in love. When you’re exhaling, telling yourself you’re exhaling anxiety. Or, breathing in positive energy, exhaling negative energy or visualizing negative energy coming out of your mouth and out of your body.”

Chopra starts his day with three or four intentions: “I’m going to maintain a joyful, energetic body today; a loving and compassionate heart today; a reflective and quiet and creative and centered mind today; and lightness of being and laughter today, whatever it takes.”

By doing these intentions, you can start to feel better, he said.

Modern technology offers up apps and smart watches that can help guide you through a meditation if you have trouble staying focused.

“Slow your breath, your thoughts will slow down as well,” Chopra said.

breathe
try this for 2 – 5 minutes

Benefits for your overall health

Breathing meditations can contribute to a state of mindfulness by bringing your focus to one thing and only thing only – your breath, Wright said.

“The goal of that is to draw your attention away from maybe worry thoughts you’re having or sort of the catastrophic thoughts or maybe depressing thoughts about feeling alone,” she added. When you’re focusing, those thoughts can be pushed aside, helping you to control your emotions.

Mindfulness has been found to influence two stress pathways in the brain, altering brain structure and activity in regions that regulate attention and emotion, according to the American Psychological Association.

In a 2015 review of studies on the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), researchers found that people who received this therapy were less likely to respond to stressful situations with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions.

Those participants were also more likely to focus on the present moment and less likely to experience ruminating thoughts.

Breathing meditations can also reduce muscle tension and your heart rate, which are signs of stress, Wright said.

Carrying yourself through a hard time

Breathing meditations are another tool you can add to your coping toolkit, which may also include journaling, baking or virtually connecting with others.

“What’s great about breathing is you can do it anywhere,” Wright said. “If music is your way of relaxing, what happens when you don’t have access to it? You always have access to your breathing, so in that sense [breathing meditations] are really portable and very accessible. We really need a variety of different coping skills in order to get through particularly unprecedented situations like this one.”

Mindfulness may not make everything go away, Wright said, but it can bring you to a “calmer state so that you’re better able to deal with all the stress that’s going on.”

By Kristen Rogers, CNN      Fri March 27, 2020
source: www.cnn.com