Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


3 Comments

Doctors Now Prescribing Music Therapy

Doctors Now Prescribing Music Therapy for Heart Ailments, Brain Dysfunction, Learning Disabilities, Depression, PTSD, Alzheimers, Childhood Development and More

Music has proven time and again to be an important component of human culture. From its ceremonial origin to modern medical usage for personal motivation, concentration, and shifting mood, music is a powerful balm for the human soul. Though traditional “music therapy” encompasses a specific set of practices, the broader use of music as a therapeutic tool can be seen nowadays as doctors are found recommending music for a wide variety of conditions.

Music Helps Control Blood Pressure and Heart-Related Disorders

According to The Cardiovascular Society of Great Britain, listening to certain music with a repetitive rhythm for least ten seconds can lead to a decrease in blood pressure and a reduced heart rate. Certain classical compositions, if matched with human body’s rhythm, can be therapeutically used to keep the heart under control. The Oxford University study states, “listening to music with a repeated 10-second rhythm coincided with a fall in blood pressure, reducing the heart rate” and thus can be used for overcoming hypertension.

Listening and Playing Music Helps Treat Stress and Depression

When it comes to the human brain, music is one of the best medicines. A study at McGill University in Canada revealed that listening to agreeable music encourages the production of beneficial brain chemicals, specifically the “feel good” hormone known as dopamine. Dopamine happens to be an integral part of brain’s pleasure-enhancing system. As a result, music leads to great feeling of joy and bliss.

It’s not only listening to music that has a positive effect on stress and depression. The Namm Foundation has compiled a comprehensive list of benefits of playing music, which includes reducing stress on both the emotional level and the molecular level. Additionally, studies have shown that adults who play music produce higher levels of Human Growth Hormone (HgH), which according to Web MD, is a necessary hormone for regulating body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and possibly heart function.

For more on how music can be composed to benefit the brain, read about States of Consciousness and Brainwave Entrainment.

Music Therapy Helps Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Music therapy has worked wonders on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. With Alzheimer’s, people lose their capacity to have interactions and carry on with interactive communications. According to studies done in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.”

Studying Music Boosts Academic Achievement in High Schoolers

Early exposure to music increases the plasticity of brain helping to motivate the human brain’s capacity in such a way that it responds readily to learning, changing and growing. “UCLA professor James S. Catterall analyzed the academic achievement of 6,500 low-income students. He found that, by the time these students were in the 10th grade, 41.4% of those who had taken arts courses scored in the top half on standardized tests, contrasted with only 25% of those who had minimal arts experience. The arts students also were better readers and watched less television.” This goes to show that in the formative stages of life, kids who study music do much better in school.

Playing Guitar (and Other Instruments) Aids in Treating PTSD

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shared a study in which veterans experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experienced relief by learning to play guitar. The organization responsible for providing guitars, Guitars For Vets “enhances the lives of ailing and injured military Veterans by providing them free guitars and music instruction.” Playing music for recovery from PTSD resembles traditional music therapy, in which patients are encouraged to make music as part of their healing process. Guitar is not the only instrument that can help PTSD. In fact, Operation We Are Here has an extensive list of Therapeutic Music Opportunities For Military Veterans.

Studying Music Boosts Brain Development in Young Children

A research-based study undertaken at the University of Liverpool in the field of neuroscience has light to shed on the beneficial effects of early exposure to music. According to the findings, even half an hour of musical training is sufficient to increase the flow of blood in the brain’s left hemisphere, resulting in higher levels of early childhood development.

The Portland Chamber Orchestra shares, “Playing a musical instrument involves multiple components of the central (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral (nerves outside the brain and spinal cord) nervous systems.  As a musician plays an instrument, motor systems in the brain control both gross and fine movements needed to produce sound.  The sound is processed by auditory circuitry, which in turn can adjust signaling by the motor control centers.  In addition, sensory information from the fingers, hands and arms is sent to the brain for processing.  If the musician is reading music, visual information is sent to the brain for processing and interpreting commands for the motor centers.  And of course, the brain processes emotional responses to the music as well!”

Music Education Helps Children Improve Reading Skills

Journal Psychology of Music reports that “Children exposed to a multi-year program of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.” In the initial stages of learning and development, music arouses auditory, emotional, cognitive and visual responses in a child. Music also aids a child’s kinesthetic development. According to the research-supported evidence, a song facilitates language learning far more effectively than speech.

Listening To Music Helps Improve Sleep

According to The Center for Cardiovascular Disease in China, listening to music before and during sleep greatly aids people who suffer from chronic sleep disorders. This “music-assisted relaxation” can be used to treat both acute and chronic sleep disorders which include everything from stress and anxiety to insomnia.

Playing Didgeridoo Helps Treat Sleep Apnea

A study published in the British Medical Journal shows that people suffering from sleep apnea can find relief by practicing the Australian wind-instrument known as the didgeridoo. Patients who played the didgeridoo for an average of 30-minutes per day, 6 days per week, saw significant increases in their quality of sleep and decreases in daytime tiredness after a minimum period of 3-months of practice. Dr. Jordan Stern of BlueSleep says, “The treatment of sleep apnea is quite challenging because there is not a single treatment that works well for every patient. The didgeridoo has been used to treat sleep apnea and it has been shown to be effective in part because of strengthening of the pharyngeal muscles, which means the muscles of the throat, as well as the muscles of the tongue.”

Written by Didge Project director AJ Block and guest author Gracy Liura.

By AJ Block – March 10, 2016

This article was created in collaboration between Didge Project director AJ Block and guest author Gracy Liura.

Author Bio: AJ Block
AJ Block is the director of Didge Project and is active as a didgeridoo teacher and performer. In addition to didgeridoo, AJ has spent years studying music traditions from all over the world including jazz (trombone and piano), western classical music, Indian Classical Music, guitar and world percussion. AJ has developed a number of programs for Didge Project including The ABCs of Didgeridoo, Didgeridoo Mastery, The Didgeridoo Musicianship Program, and Circular Breathing Mastery. AJ is a founding member of both Sacred Arts Research Foundation and Dream Seed. As a student of spiritual teacher Maestro Manuel Rufino AJ is an active member of the Golden Drum community.


Author Bio: Gracy Liura
Gracy Liura is a nutritionist based in New Delhi who actively works on the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Research portal. One aspect of Gracy’s work is based on the connection between music and the cardio-vascular system of the human body. She says “There are medical set-ups that have introduced slow and soothing music of slower-beat, just to minimize the cost incurred by providing sedatives.” As said previously, light music that flows at the rhythmic rate of ten seconds is effective in lowering the pulse rate. Such compositions also bring high systolic and diastolic pressure under the control, and thus motivate the patients into a state of sound slumber. Not only for therapeutic uses, but if you want to be more successful and more productive than your counterparts; then, you either need to play music, or become an avid listener.

source: https://didgeproject.com

music

Listening to Music While Driving Reduces Cardiac Stress

Stress while driving is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac complications such as heart attack (myocardial infarction), according to studies published in recent years. Selecting suitable driving music may be one way to mitigate this risk.
A study by researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Marília, Brazil, suggests that listening to instrumental music, for example, may relieve cardiac stress.
The results of the study, which were supported by São Paulo Research Foundation—FAPESP, are published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.
Researchers at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil, Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom and the University of Parma in Italy also took part in this study.
“We found that cardiac stress in the participants in our experiment was reduced by listening to music while they were driving,” Vitor Engrácia Valenti, a professor at UNESP Marília and a principal investigator of the project, told.
The researchers analyzed the effects of music on cardiac stress in five women between the ages of 18 and 23. All subjects were healthy, considered nonhabitual drivers (they drove once or twice a week), and had obtained a license 1-7 years previously.
“We opted to assess women who were not habitual drivers because people who drive frequently and have had a license for a long time are better adapted to stressful situations in traffic,” Valenti explained.
The volunteers were assessed on two days, in different situations and in a random order. On one day, they drove for 20 minutes at rush hour (5:30-6:30 pm) along a 3 km route in a busy district of Marília, a medium-sized city in the northwest of São Paulo State, without listening to music.
On the other day, the volunteers drove the same route at the same time of day but listened to instrumental music on a CD player coupled to the car radio. The use of earbuds or headphones while driving is a traffic offense.
“To increase the degree of traffic stress, we asked them to drive a car they did not own. Driving their own car might help,” Valenti said.
The level of cardiac stress was estimated by measuring heart rate variability using a heart rate monitor attached to the participant’s chest. Defined as fluctuations in the intervals between consecutive heart beats, heart rate variability is influenced by the autonomic nervous system. The more active the sympathetic nervous system, the faster the heart beats, while the parasympathetic nervous system tends to slow it down.
“Elevated sympathetic nervous system activity reduces heart rate variability, whereas more intense parasympathetic nervous system activity increases it,” Valenti said.
Analysis showed a reduction in heart rate variability in the volunteers who drove without music, indicating a lower level of parasympathetic nervous system activity but sympathetic nervous system activation.
Conversely, heart rate variability increased in the drivers who listened to music, indicating a higher level of parasympathetic nervous system activity and a reduction in sympathetic nervous system activity.
“Listening to music attenuated the moderate stress overload the volunteers experienced as they drove,” Valenti said.
The study involved only women to control for the influence of sex hormones, he explained. “If men, as well as women, had participated and we had found a significant difference between the two groups, female sex hormones might have been considered responsible,” he said.
In his view, the results of the study could contribute to the creation of cardiovascular preventative measures in situations of acute stress, such as driving in heavy traffic.
“Listening to music could be such a preventive measure in favor of cardiovascular health in situations of intense stress such as driving during rush hour,” he said.
by Elton Alisson, FAPESP      NOVEMBER 12, 2019


Leave a comment

Exercise May Help Ward Off Depression

Even If You’re Genetically Prone to It
An extra 35 minutes of exercise per day was tied to a reduced likelihood of experiencing depression.

Getting a few hours of exercise a week may reduce the risk of depression, even in people who are genetically prone to the condition, a new study suggests.

The authors found that, although certain genes boost a person’s risk of depression, increased levels of exercise essentially canceled out this genetic risk.

Overall, for every 4 hours of exercise per week (about 35 minutes per day), participants saw a 17% reduction in their chances of experiencing bouts of depression over the next two years. This protective effect of exercise held even for those at high genetic risk for depression.

“Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable,” study lead author Karmel Choi, postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a statement.

The study is published today (Nov. 5) in the journal Depression and Anxiety.

Genetic risk

Depression can run in families, which suggests that genetic factors contribute to the risk of developing the disease, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Although research on the genetics of depression is in its infancy, studies suggest that multiple genes, each with a small effect, combine to increase a person’s risk of the disease, according to the NIH.

In addition, previous studies have found that exercise can reduce people’s risk of depression. But it wasn’t clear if this benefit applied to those with certain risk factors, such as a genetic risk for depression, the authors said.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from nearly 8,000 participants in the Partners HealthCare Biobank, a database intended to help researchers better understand how people’s genes, environment and lifestyle affect their health. Participants provided a blood sample, had their genomes analyzed and filled out a survey about their lifestyle behaviors, such as how much exercise they typically get in a week. This information was then linked with people’s electronic health records (EHRs) within Partners HealthCare, a Boston-based health care system.

To be included in the new study, participants could not be currently depressed, and so the researchers excluded people who had visited a medical professional for depression within the past year. The authors then looked to see which of those remaining participants experienced a new episode of depression — based on billing codes from their EHRs — within the next two years.

The researchers also used genomic data to calculate a person’s genetic risk for depression, and gave people a “score” based on their risk. This allowed the researchers to divide participants into three groups: those with low, intermediate and high genetic risk for depression.

Protective effect

The researchers found that, not surprisingly, those with a high genetic risk for depression were 50% more likely to experience a new episode of depression within the next two years, compared with those at low genetic risk.

However, across all risk groups, people who were more physically active were less likely to experience a new episode of depression. For example, among those in the high-risk group, the incidence of depression was nearly 13% for those who didn’t exercise, compared with just 8% for those who exercised for about 3 hours a week.

What’s more, both high-intensity exercises, such as running, and low-intensity exercises, such as yoga, were linked with a decreased risk of depression.

However, the study only found an association and cannot prove that a lack of exercise causes depression (although previous research has suggested that exercise likely helps ward off depression). In addition, the EHRs used in the study do not capture the severity of a depressive episode and do not reflect care outside of the Partners HealthCare system.

Still, the study provides “promising evidence” that doctors can use to counsel patients and “make recommendations to patients that here is something meaningful they can do to lower their risk even if they have a family history of depression,” Choi said.

Of course, in addition to reducing depression risk, regular exercise has a slew of other health benefits, such as reducing people’s risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, less than a quarter Americans meet national exercise guidelines, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

By Rachael Rettner – Senior Writer
 
Originally published on Live Science
 
omega 3 sources

 

Omega-3 fatty Acids in Depression: A Review of Three Studies.


Abstract

We review three studies of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depression that were carried out by our research group at the Beer Sheva Mental Health Center. The first study examined eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) versus placebo as an adjunct to antidepressant treatment in 20 unipolar patients with recurrent major depression. The second study used omega-3 fatty acids in childhood major depression; 28 children aged 6-12 were randomized to omega-3 fatty acids or placebo as pharmacologic monotherapy. The third study was an open-label add-on trial of EPA in bipolar depression. Twelve bipolar outpatients with depressive symptoms were treated with 1.5-2.0 g/day of EPA for up to 6 months. In the adult unipolar depression study, highly significant benefits were found by week 3 of EPA treatment compared with placebo. In the child study, an analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed highly significant effects of omega-3 on each of the three rating scales. In the bipolar depression study, 8 of the 10 patients who completed at least 1 month of follow-up achieved a 50% or greater reduction in Hamilton depression (Ham-D) scores within 1 month. No significant side effects were reported in any of the studies. Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to be more effective than placebo for depression in both adults and children in small controlled studies and in an open study of bipolar depression. (This review discusses three studies, all from our group, completed before the clinical trial registry was initiated.).

PMID: 19499625 PMCID: PMC6494070 DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00061.x
[Indexed for MEDLINE] Free PMC Article

 
Osher Y1, Belmaker RH.
Ministry of Health Beer Sheva Mental Health Center, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel. yamy@bgu.ac.il


1 Comment

The Vitamin That Quadruples Weight Loss

Taking vitamin D supplements can significantly increase weight loss, according to a recent study.

People who took vitamin D supplements had over four times the weight loss as those that did not, researchers found.

obese

Vitamin D also doubled the number of inches taken off their waistlines.

Low levels of vitamin D is repeatedly linked to being overweight and obese.

Almost 40 percent of obese people are deficient in vitamin D.

The study included 400 obese and overweight people with vitamin D deficiency.

They were put on a low-calorie diet and split into three groups.

One group took 25,000 IU of vitamin D per month, the second took 100,000 IU of vitamin D per month and the control group took none.

Six months later the results showed that both vitamin D groups had lost more weight than those who were not taking the vitamin.

Those taking 100,000, or around 3,000 IU per day, had 12 pounds of weight loss.

People taking 25,000 IU, or around 800 IU per day, lost 8 pounds.

In comparison, those only following the calorie restricted diet had just 2.6 pounds of weight loss over the six months.

The study’s authors write:

“The present data indicate that in obese and overweight people with vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D supplementation aids weight loss and enhances the beneficial effects of a reduced-calorie diet.”

Measurements of dieters’ waistlines also revealed vitamin D had had an effect.

Those taking 100,000 IU lost an average of two inches from their waistline compared to just over 1 inch in the control group.

The researchers conclude:

“All people affected by obesity should have their levels of vitamin D tested to see if they are deficient, and if so, begin taking supplements.”

vitamin d

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:

  • Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
  • The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
  • Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
  • Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do

The study was presented at the European Congress on Obesity, 2015 (Vigna et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog

 

obesity

Gut Bacteria is Key Factor in Childhood Obesity



Summary:
Scientists suggest that gut bacteria and its interactions with immune cells and metabolic organs, including fat tissue, play a key role in childhood obesity.


New information published by scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Health suggests that gut bacteria and its interactions with immune cells and metabolic organs, including fat tissue, play a key role in childhood obesity.

“The medical community used to think that obesity was a result of consuming too many calories. However, a series of studies over the past decade has confirmed that the microbes living in our gut are not only associated with obesity but also are one of the causes,” said Hariom Yadav, Ph.D., lead author of the review and assistant professor of molecular medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist.

In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity is increasing at 2.3% rate each year among school-aged children, which is unacceptably high and indicates worrisome prospects for the next generation’s health, the article states.


Yadav’s manuscript, published in the current issue of the journal Obesity Reviews, reviewed existing studies (animal and human) on how the interaction between gut microbiome and immune cells can be passed from mother to baby as early as gestation and can contribute to childhood obesity.


The review also described how a mother’s health, diet, exercise level, antibiotic use, birth method (natural or cesarean), and feeding method (formula or breast milk) can affect the risk of obesity in her children.

“This compilation of current research should be very useful for doctors, nutritionists and dietitians to discuss with their patients because so many of these factors can be changed if people have enough good information,” Yadav said. “We also wanted to identify gaps in the science for future research.”

In addition, having a better understanding of the role of the gut microbiome and obesity in both mothers and their children hopefully will help scientists design more successful preventive and therapeutic strategies to check the rise of obesity in children, he said.

Journal Reference:
Halle J. Kincaid, Ravinder Nagpal, Hariom Yadav. Microbiome‐immune‐metabolic axis in the epidemic of childhood obesity: Evidence and opportunities. Obesity Reviews, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/obr.12963
Cite This Page:
MLA
APA
Chicago
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Source:
Materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

 
ScienceDaily               30 October 2019
 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191030132704.htm


Leave a comment

The Health Benefits Of Pumpkin Spice

Finally, some good news about the much-maligned PSL.

Happy pumpkin spice season!

The internet is full of people trying to slander the noblest of flavours. But it turns out that pumpkin spice, absent of all the sugar and syrup certain coffee shops may add in, is actually pretty good for you.

What’s in pumpkin spice, anyway?

Pumpkin pie spice, as it’s sometimes called, usually contains four or five ingredients, all of them good for us.

Ginger

Ginger is kind of a superstar spice. It’s an anti-inflammatory, for one thing, and can also help with digestion and quell nausea, which is why it’s often recommended for people suffering from morning sickness.

It can also reduce soreness and help with joint pain, and may improve brain function and fight infections.

You know how when you’re sick, everyone suggests you put ginger in your tea? This is why.

Cloves

There isn’t a huge amount of research behind the claims that cloves are good for you, so take this with a grain of salt. (Or cinnamon?) Many people believe cloves can be used to relieve dental pain. They also contain fibre, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs.

Nutmeg

Both nutmeg and mace — the nebulous covering of the nutmeg seed — are used in medicine. Nutmeg can treat nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and is used in some medications for cancer, insomnia, and kidney disease.

Quick word of warning on nutmeg, though: use it sparingly! Ingesting more than two tablespoons’ worth at a time can cause unpleasant symptoms like nausea, dry mouth, and extreme dizziness. In the Middle Ages it was used as an abortifacient, according to the New York Times, who also note that Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography that people used it as a drug substitute when he was in prison.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. It may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, and may be helpful with heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases, but as with cloves, there still isn’t enough research to back those claims up.

Sometimes: Allspice

The confusingly named allspice is the “optional” ingredient in most pumpkin spice mixes. It’s actually the fruit from a flowering tropical evergreen tree plant that’s picked before it gets ripe.

Allspice can help with a variety of conditions, many in the stomach area, including indigestion, abdominal pain, and menstrual cramps.

And it contains eugenol, which kills germs on your teeth and gums, which is why it’s sometimes included in toothpaste.

And what about pumpkin itself?

OK, fine, pumpkin spice lattes don’t actually contain any pumpkin. But pumpkin has been proven to improve the immune system and to slow digestion (which can help with weight loss). It’s also good for your skin and your eyes, and may help with diabetes and certain kinds of cancer.

What are you waiting for, fellow pumpkin spice lovers? This is your time.

By Maija Kappler    10/21/2019

 

HALLOWEEN HEALTH TIPS FOR ADULTS

Let’s be honest shall we? It’s not just the kids who go a little sugar crazy over the Halloween season, and even days and weeks thereafter – it’s the adults too! It happens to the best of us.
Following a yearly Halloween excursion, your little ones come home with a bucket full of mini candy bars to nosh on, or even worse, you have five cases of leftover treats you didn’t give away. Without even realizing it, you slowly eat more candy, chocolate and other sugary treats just because they are lurking in your cupboards.

How to avoid too much sugar

Unfortunately, most of the Halloween goodies given out as treats or found at parties are loaded with an abundant amount of white sugar. This is no surprise since white sugar is added to a myriad of products as a cheap filler to improve taste.
In fact, it is estimated that the average North American consumes two to three pounds of sugar per week in products such as cereals, cookies, yogurts and even ketchup! As you can imagine, during the days around Halloween, the amount of consumed white refined sugar skyrockets.

The dangers of eating too many sweets

What is the problem with a little white sugar? In addition to contributing to weight gain, white sugar can create a number of health problems in the body that include:
• Suppression of immune system function
• Fluctuation of energy levels
• Making the body more acidic
• Hyperactivity and impulse behavior
• Raised insulin levels
• Can elevate bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and lower good cholesterol (HDL) levels
• Can contribute to diabetes and heart disease
By no means am I suggesting that you be “that house” on Halloween and eliminate all the holiday fun. When I was a child growing up, my dear father was a dentist and gave out toothbrushes for Halloween! Talk about a humiliating experience for a child. However, there is a balance and a degree of moderation that can be exercised to make Halloween a healthier time for both parents and tots.

What you can do

• Get rid of over 50 per cent of the food your child has collected and/or leftover goodies that were not given away. Donate it or throw it out. Having it in the house is too much of a temptation for all ages.
• Replace chocolate bars – featuring trans fatty acids and too much sugar – with small cut up squares of dark chocolate that are heart healthy and rich in antioxidants. Keep small bite sizes in the freezer and grab when you are craving a sweet treat.
• Exercise portion control. Many chocolate bars come in “thin” sizes with half the calories.
• Substitute in foods with healthier, naturally occurring sugars such as fruits and fruit juice. Over the fall and winter months, baked apples with cinnamon and sprinkled chocolate is a perfect treat to satiate any sweet tooth.

Take home point

Remember, it is best to allow yourself to indulge from time to time. Practice the 80-20 rule of eating. In other words, eat healthy 80 per cent of the time and allow yourself to fall off the health wagon and indulge 20 per cent of the time.
By doing so, you will avoid temptation and feelings of deprivation that can lead to future food binges. In addition, become a label reader and replace white sugary products with foods that contain naturally occurring sugars. Watch out for products whose first or second ingredient is glucose, high fructose corn syrup or sugar.
Happy Halloween!
 
BY: DR. JOEY SHULMAN     OCT 30, 2008
Dr. Joey Shulman is the author of the national best seller The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2005). For more information, visit http://www.drjoey.com


1 Comment

5 Strategic Ways To Build Your Self-Confidence (That Make You Stronger & More Resilient)

Grow your inner strength.

What is inner strength?
Having inner strength allows you pursue your dreams and goals and live your life to the fullest.
A person with inner strength:
  • Loves themselves (feels deeply their value, lovableness and loves their body, mind, and spirit).
  • Can bend with change and embrace it.
  • Can say ‘no’ when it feels right without regret second-guessing.
  • Knows who they are — what they like and what they don’t — and how they feel.
  • Can ask for help when they need it.
  • Is open to learning and is curious.

How do we get inner strength? The answer: Learning how to build our self-confidence.
Here are 5 ways to build self-confidence that can help you flourish:

1. Knowing what you feel.

This is primary — essential to knowing, loving yourself, and having a strong core. Pay attention to the area below your head! The information about how you feel is in your body. What sensations are in our chest and your belly? Are you tense, jittery, or nauseous? Ask yourself, “What sensation do I feel in my body?”
Then, try this exercise: Identify which feeling that physical sensation is connected to — are you mad, sad, glad, scared, or some derivative of one or more of those? Once you can identify a feeling, you find out if you accept or reject that feeling. (“I don’t like it that I’m still sad about my breakup. I should be over that by now! It’s been 5 years.”)

Having inner strength means embracing all your feelings as good because they’re part of you and you’re amazing! Feelings aren’t bad, they just are. Think of it this way: Little kids don’t stuff their feelings nor censor them. When they’re really sad, they cry. When they’re happy, they run around yelling with joy. They don’t worry what others think — and you shouldn’t judge your emotions, either!

2. Having boundaries.

So you can identify how you feel! Awesome! You start to know yourself and begin growing a strong core. Once you learn how you feel, you can create boundaries — saying ‘no’ when you don’t want to do something.
Some folks say “yes” to everything, partly because they think more people will like them and they’ll get some of that good-feeling-about-themselves aimed in their direction. They get stuck in “my value has to come from outside me”. They’re not loving who they are.

We all need outside affirmation as we’re growing up (we’re mammals — we’re relational). But if we get good enough parenting (not perfect, says the research), we grow a strong inner core that says we’re wonderful. We feel solid and happy with ourselves.

When you feel good about yourself, it’s not as hard to say “no” when something doesn’t feel right. Being able to set a good firm boundary comes from a strong inner core. You don’t worry about being rejected. You want to speak your truth.

3. Bend with challenges.

Life brings us challenges — sometimes unexpected, maybe painful. Can we bend with them, can we go with the flow and let ourselves move with, feel the feelings, and adapt to what’s happening without breaking?
These times are amazing opportunities for growth. We get stretched, maybe going beyond what we have imagined we can endure. But as we move through a challenge, even getting help along the way, we discover that we have an amazing resilience. We expand our capacities. We grow more inner strength.

4. Be open to learning and asking for help.

When someone is open to learning they are saying, “I’m not threatened that you know something I don’t, I’m curious. Tell me so I can discover that too and enrich my life. And while we’re at it, I will validate you by listening and absorbing what you know.”

When you’re stuck and don’t know how to make yourself feel better or create something in your life, can you ask for help?

Some folks feel that they need to do everything themselves. It’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. But if you are good with you, you won’t have a problem reaching out and finding that person or source who can add wonderful things to your life.

5. Answer this question: Do you love yourself?

Are you good loving friends with your body? Do you love your body as it is? Do you ask your body what food it wants to eat, what exercise feels good, and what rest does it needs? Or do you ignore what your body is telling you? Do you stay disconnected from the messages it speaks to you?

Life becomes so much more fun and easier when we have a loving relationship with our body. Look at how far your body has taken you up to now! And still truckin’! When we make friends with our body and appreciate it, our body responds in kind and we feel happier. This helps grow inner strength.

Do you love your mind? Or are you at war with your own thoughts? Do your thoughts race around in endless cycles of negativity? Do you hate it or can you calm your thoughts and find peace? Knowing how to relax your head, to accept that sometimes our mind needs tender loving care too, goes a long way to supporting your inner core.
And do you have a spiritual connection that feels awesome? Many people gain much strength from their relationship with the spirit or whatever it is that feels right to them. This is an amazing source of inner strength that helps create calm and loving and accepting you as you.

Having a strong inner core is possible!

Sometimes it takes a little work, but it’s completely doable. And that moment when you arrive and you realize that you’re amazing, you’re loving yourself, you’re at peace, you have the energy and passion to pursue your goals.
You can be on fire with loving life and be so glad you are here!

Ann Naimark an MFT who incorporates spirituality into her work. For 25 years, she has led groups, held workshops, and treated individuals and couples to help them focus and integrate their mind, body, emotions, and spirit so they can fully live with purpose, joy, balance, and peace.
Ann Naimark    April 18, 2018
mirror

Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

17 simple suggestions for building confidence and self-esteem.

Low self-esteem can be deeply rooted, with origins in traumatic childhood experiences such as prolonged separation from parent figures, neglect, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. In later life, self-esteem can be undermined by ill health, negative life events such as losing a job or getting divorced, deficient or frustrating relationships, and a general sense of lack of control. This sense of lack of control may be especially marked in victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or victims of discrimination on the grounds of religion, culture, race, sex, or sexual orientation.

The relationship between low self-esteem and mental disorder and mental distress is very complex. Low self-esteem predisposes to mental disorder, which in turn knocks self-esteem. In some cases, low self-esteem is in itself a cardinal feature of mental disorder, as, for example, in depression or borderline personality disorder.

People with low self-esteem tend to see the world as a hostile place and themselves as its victim. As a result, they are reluctant to express and assert themselves, miss out on experiences and opportunities, and feel powerless to change things. All this lowers their self-esteem still further, sucking them into a downward spiral.

If you feel that you suffer from poor self-esteem, there are a number of simple things that you can do to boost yourself and, hopefully, break out of the downward spiral. You may already be doing some of these things, and you certainly don’t need to be doing them all. Just do those that you feel most comfortable with.

1. Make two lists: one of your strengths and one of your achievements. Try to get a supportive friend or relative to help you with these lists, as people with low self-esteem are not usually in the most objective frame of mind. Keep the lists in a safe place and read through them every morning.

2. Think positively about yourself. Remind yourself that, despite your problems, you are a unique, special, and valuable person, and that you deserve to feel good about yourself. You are, after all, a miracle of consciousness, the consciousness of the universe. Identify and challenge any negative thoughts about yourself such as ‘I am loser’, ‘I never do anything right’, or ‘No one really likes me’.

3. Pay special attention to your personal hygiene: take a shower, brush your hair, trim your nails, and so on.

4. Wear clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself. All things being equal, wear an ironed shirt rather than a crumpled T-shirt, you get the idea.

5. Eat good food as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Make meals a special time, even if you are eating alone. Turn off the TV, set the table, light a candle, and make a moment to feel grateful.

6. Exercise regularly. Go for a brisk walk every day, even if it is cold or rainy, and take more vigorous exercise (exercise that makes you sweat) three times a week.

7. Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep.

8. Reduce your stress levels. If possible, agree with a friend or relative that you will take turns to massage each other on a regular basis. For other suggestions, see my article Managing Stress.

9. Make your living space clean, comfortable, and attractive. Whenever I clean my windows or just water my plants I seem to feel much better. Display items that remind you of your achievements and the special times and people in your life.

10. Do more of the things that you enjoy. Go ahead and spoil yourself. Do at least one thing that you enjoy every day.

11. Get artistic. Activities like painting, music, poetry, and dance enable you to express yourself, interact positively with others, and reduce your stress levels. You might even impress yourself! Find a class through your local adult education service or community centre.

12. Set yourself a challenge that you can realistically complete. For example, take up yoga, learn to sing, or throw a small dinner party for some friends. Just go for it!

13. Do some of the things that you have been putting off, such as filing the paperwork, repainting the kitchen, or clearing out the garden.

14. Be nice to people, and do nice things for them. For instance, strike up a conversation with the postman or shopkeeper, invite a neighbor round for tea, visit a friend who is sick, or get involved with a local charity. Putting a smile on someone’s face is bound to put one on yours.

15. Get others on board. Tell your friends and relatives what you are going through and ask for their advice and support. Perhaps they too have similar problems, in which case you might be able to band together and form a support group. Don’t be overly shy or reserved: most people do want to help!

16. Spend more time with those you hold near and dear. At the same time, try to enlarge your social circle by making an effort to meet and befriend people.

17. Avoid people and places that treat you badly or make you feel bad about yourself. This could mean being more assertive. If assertiveness is a problem for you, ask a health professional about assertiveness training.

Finally, remember those wise words of Lao Tzu:  

Health is the greatest possession.  

Contentment is the greatest treasure. 

Confidence is the greatest friend.

 

Neel Burton       May 30, 2012


Neel Burton is author of Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking, Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception, Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions, and other books.

About the Author
Neel Burton, M.D., is a psychiatrist, philosopher, and writer who lives and teaches in Oxford, England.
In Print: Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking
Online: neelburton.com


5 Comments

9 Ways to Promote Gratitude in Your Life

Gratitude is good for us every way you look at it.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California in Riverside, gratitude boosts our happiness levels in a number of ways: by promoting the savoring of positive life experiences; by bolstering self-worth and self-esteem and thereby helping to cope with stress and trauma; by building social bonds and encouraging moral behavior; and by diminishing negative emotions and helping us adjust to new situations.

Gratitude has a number of physical health benefits as well. “Research suggests that individuals who are grateful in their daily lives actually report fewer stress-related health symptoms, including headaches, gastrointestinal (stomach) issues, chest pain, muscle aches, and appetite problems,” says Sheela Raja, PhD, an assistant professor and clinical psychologist in the Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

But how do we get there? For some folks, gratitude is much easier than for others. I, for one, have to work really hard at it because my cup usually appears one-third full. With a few exercises, though, I can become a more grateful person and promote gratitude in my life, which brings many emotional and physical gifts.

1. Go Ahead and Compare
I constantly compare myself to people who are more productive than I am (have more energy and need less sleep), who go to a doctor once a year, and who are resilient to stress. “Why can’t I be like her?” I ask myself. And then I remember Helen Keller’s quote: “Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.”

Her wisdom forces me to go back and remember all the people I know who can’t work at all because of their chronic illnesses, those with unsupportive spouses who don’t understand depression, and the folks I know who can’t afford a monthly pass to Bikram yoga or kale and dandelion greens to make smoothies. Suddenly, my jealousy has turned to gratitude.

2. Write Thank-You Letters
According to University of California at Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, PhD, a powerful exercise in cultivating gratitude is to compose a “gratitude letter” to a person who has made a positive and lasting influence in your life. Dr. Emmons, who also wrote Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, says the letter is especially powerful when you haven’t properly thanked the person in the past, and when you read the letter aloud to the person face-to-face. I do this as part of my holiday cards, especially to former professors or teachers who helped shape my future and inspired me in ways they might not know.

3. Keep a Gratitude Journal
According to Dr. Lyubomirsky, keeping a gratitude journal (in which you record all the things you have to be grateful for once a week) and other gratitude exercises can increase your energy, and relieve pain and fatigue. A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality documented a group of 90 undergraduate students. Divided into two groups, the first wrote about a positive experience each day for two minutes, and the second wrote about a control topic. Three months later, the students who wrote about positive experiences had better mood levels, fewer visits to the health center, and experienced fewer illnesses.

In my daily mood journal, I make a list of each day’s “little joys”: moments that I would fail to appreciate if I didn’t make myself record them, such as a gorgeous, 70-degree day in winter; a supply of dark chocolate; the feeling of exhilaration I have after completing a 90-minute class of Bikram yoga; and an afternoon with only one meltdown from my kids.

4. Ask Yourself These Four Questions
Byron Katie’s bestseller, Loving What Is, is helping me analyze my thinking in a way that is unique to the tools I’ve learned in other self-help books. I am much more aware of the stories I weave in my mind without much analysis as to whether or not they are true. You need to read the book to fully understand her process called “The Work,” but here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

For every problem you’re having, or every negative rumination you can’t let go of, ask yourself these four questions: Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react when you think that thought? Who would you be without that thought?
You have to record the answers on paper for the exercise to be fully effective. After going through the process a few times, I realized the thoughts I had about certain people and events were causing the suffering I had, not the people and events themselves. This enables you to embrace those people and events with gratitude — to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, in general — because you know that they aren’t the problem. Your stories are.

5. Shift Your Language
According to Andrew Newberg, MD, and Mark Robert Waldman, words can literally change your brain. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, they write, “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Positive words, like “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our front lobes and promoting the cognitive functioning of the brain. They propel the motivational centers of the brain into action, explain the authors, and build resiliency.

Lately I’ve been trying to catch myself when profanity or something negative is about to come out of my mouth. I’m not all that good at this, but I definitely believe that words have power, and that by making a few subtle shifts in our language, we can promote gratitude and can generate better health for ourselves.

gratitude

6. Serve
Service promotes gratitude more directly than any other path I know. Whenever I’m stuck in self-pity or depression, feeling personally victimized by the universe, the fastest way out of my head and into my heart is reaching out to someone who is in pain — especially similar pain. That’s the reason I created my online depression support groups Project Beyond Blue and Group Beyond Blue. For five years, I couldn’t get rid of debilitating death thoughts after experimenting with almost every therapy that both traditional and alternative medicine had to offer. By participating in a forum where folks are in more pain than I am — and where I can share my hard-earned insights and resources — I am made aware of the blessings in my life that I had forgotten or simply took for granted.

7. Hang With Positive People
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, including yourself.” Research confirms that. In one study conducted by Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, and James Fowler, PhD, of the University of California in San Diego, individuals who associated themselves with happy people were more likely to be happy themselves.

Another study by psychological scientists Gerald Haeffel, PhD, and Jennifer Hames of the University of Notre Dame, showed that risk factors for depression can actually be contagious when our social environments are in flux. So there’s a better shot of your becoming a more grateful, positive person if you surround yourself with grateful people.

8. Make a Gratitude Ritual
One family I know has a gratitude ritual every night at dinner. After prayers, each person goes around the table saying something positive that happened to him or her that day — one thing for which he or she is grateful. In our home, we’re lucky to get everyone seated without a meltdown, so I’ve filed this exercise for down the road a little — maybe after hormones are stabilized. But I thought it was a really nice way of cultivating gratitude as a family and teaching that value to non-hormonal kids.

9. Try a Loving-Kindness Meditation
In a landmark study published in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology, Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, and her team showed that practicing seven weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased gratitude as well as a host of other positive emotions. The benefits intensified over time, producing a range of other health benefits: increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased symptoms of illness. Sociologist Christine Carter, PhD, with University of California Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center, gives a nice overview of how to do a simple loving-kindness meditation in five minutes a day on her blog. She writes:

Because research demonstrates the incredible power of loving-kindness meditation: No need to be self-conscious when this stuff might be more effective than Prozac. Also called metta, loving-kindness meditation is the simple practice of directing well-wishes towards other people.

 

By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor
8 Jul 2018


Leave a comment

How To Ace Thanksgiving

As wine is poured and clashing     personalities take their place at the table, controversial issues can hijack conversation.

Like any holiday that brings far-flung family members into close proximity for extended periods of time, Thanksgiving can be a fraught and imperfect occasion, despite our best efforts. Old grudges simmer quietly between relatives, wine flows too quickly, extroverts dominate the room and conversations veer into dangerous political territory (Trump, Trudeau, #MeToo, climate change, and on and on). Meltdowns happen, with no child or adult spared.

This Thanksgiving, experts from various fields offer their best practices for getting through dinner unscathed – from an apology ace who walks people through testy family reunions, to a skilled debater adept at arguing without rage, to a gratitude guru on feeling this emotion more deeply, in the moment, over stuffing. Above all else, the experts remind, you’re here to share a meal, not dissect your dysfunctional family (that you can do later, at home).

THE INTROVERTS AT YOUR TABLE

Marsha Pinto, creator of Softest Voices, an organization that helps introverted youth, said people bring vastly different conversational styles to the family table. Extroverts tell stories and introverts listen; both skills are valuable.

“With this highly social holiday, remember that each person shares themselves socially in different way,” said Pinto, who is from Markham, Ont. “If not for the introverts, the extroverts would have no one to listen to them. If not for the extroverts, it would be a rather quiet Thanksgiving dinner.”

Pinto said she’s had many quieter children and teenagers write to her complaining they feel pressed by parents to speak eloquently at family gatherings. “Just because a kid is quiet, it doesn’t mean they have nothing to say or know nothing,” Pinto said. “It means they are thinking of what to say and absorbing what is said by others.”

Pinto suggested families not put introverted children on the spot in front of distant relatives; instead, engage them in one-on-one conversation away from the more boisterous group.

POLITICS OVER TURKEY

As wine is poured and clashing personalities take their place at the table, controversial issues can hijack conversation. Debra Miko, Calgary-based president of the Canadian Student Debating Federation, said the most challenging aspect of debating is understanding where others are coming from, even if you vehemently disagree with their world view. “Remember that a 25-year-old will have different values and priorities than grandma or grandpa,” Miko said.

Resist the urge to get personal. Instead, listen closely and then query, Miko said. “Be open to exploring issues rather than trying to force family and friends to agree with you. Try, ‘It’s interesting that you saw it from that perspective – not quite the way I had interpreted it. Can you elaborate?’”

If you happen to be wrong, take the high road. “It’s okay to lose an argument,” Miko said. “My son, a former high school Team Canada debating member used to tell me, ‘A loss is a learn.’”

QUELLING TABLE-SIDE ERUPTIONS

Discord is often unavoidable at sizable family gatherings, although what you do with it is up to you, according to Darcy Pennock, Edmonton-based director of Verbal Judo Canada, which provides conflict-management training for government, corporations and law-enforcement agencies.

Start by taking a breath, Pennock said. “Whether something is slowly building or appears to erupt spontaneously, take some deep yoga breaths that slow your heart rate and prevent your body from being ‘high-jacked’ by your emotions.”

Although it may seem hard to tap into in the heat of the moment, empathy is the fastest peacemaker. “Empathy is essential for absorbing tension and calming people down,” Pennock said.

He recommends modifying one’s “delivery style” so it relays compassion, not combativeness. “A concerned, listening look on your face and open, non-threatening body language sends the right message,” Pennock said. “Acknowledge their emotions with phrases such as, ‘I can see you’re frustrated.’ Follow this with open-ended questions. These techniques help us strengthen relationships during times of conflict, not destroy them.”

turkey

Pennock recalled one family gathering at which he pacified 89-year-old Grandma Betty. Pennock’s nephew was lamenting how little free time he and his wife have amid hockey practice for their two children. Grandma Betty shot back with: “You spoil your kids. We never ran around with our kids like parents do today.” Uncomfortable silence ensued, so Pennock took a deep breath and interjected, not with a rebuke but with grace. He raised his own years playing hockey as a boy: What he remembered most was Grandma Betty or his father watching from the stands. “The conversation shifted to happy hockey memories,” Pennock said, and Grandma Betty’s parenting insult was diffused.

BEYOND SORRY, NOT SORRY

Every family has its sore spots. For feuding relatives who bristle at the thought of being in close quarters this Thanksgiving, the time to try and resolve matters is now, not in real time, urged Jennifer Thomas, a psychologist who co-authored the book When Sorry Isn’t Enough: Making Things Right With Those You Love with Gary Chapman.

“Around the family meal (or even off in another room during the gathering) is not the time to hammer out situations that caused hurt feelings in the past,” Thomas said. “It’s really something that should be done a week or a month before the holiday. You’re going to be together for the whole day.”

Thomas recommended reaching out in person or over the phone; this conveys more commitment than a text or e-mail. Then, use the holiday meal as an opportunity to repair trust. “Go in with a mindset of giving compliments. Tell the host, ‘I think you’re really great at making people feel welcome. Thank you for having us over,'” Thomas said. “Offering to help out can also help rebuild relationships and show that we’re willing to roll up our shirt sleeves and make it easier for them. It also can be a way of keeping us busy so that we don’t reach for the alcohol, which can be a landmine, or get into arguments.”

THE GRATITUDE PUSH

Gratitude is the order of the day at Thanksgiving. But kitchen pandemonium, testy adults and children running underfoot can make it nearly impossible to summon authentic gratitude. Amid the chaos, rituals of giving thanks around the table can feel forced and abrupt, said Diana Butler Bass, author of the 2018 book Grateful: The Subversive Practice of Giving Thanks. “People pressure themselves by insisting that family members or guests recite what they are thankful for in advance of the meal,” Bass said. “Although well intended, it sometimes feels more like a turkey hostage situation than genuine gratitude.”

Bass offers a depressurized alternative to traditional, around-the-table thanks. “Well before you begin eating, ask guests to write what they are thankful for on slips of paper and place those slips in a ‘gratitude jar’ on the table. Throughout the meal, when conversation lags or between courses, have different people pull a slip out and read it aloud to the group,” Bass said. “It’s a nice way to keep one extroverted guest from monopolizing conversation, involve children in a gratitude practice and spread thanks across dinner.”

ZOSIA BIELSKI     OCTOBER 7, 2019
FOLLOW ZOSIA BIELSKI ON TWITTER @ZOSIABIELSKI