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5 Ways to Have a More Meaningful Life

January 22, 2014     By Sally Wadyka

If someone asked you whether you wanted your life to be meaningful or happy, chances are you’d say “both.” A recent study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, takes an interesting look at whether or not that’s truly possible. Researchers analyzed 397 adults over a month-long period, using self-assessment questionnaires to determine whether people thought their lives were happy or meaningful. They found that while the two states aren’t synonymous, they’re not mutually exclusive either. A rich life, ultimately, seems to need healthy doses of both short-term happiness and lasting substance. To get you started, here are five ways to make your life more meaningful.

1. Get connected
Having a busy social life with lots of friends may help keep you happy, but it’s your deeper relationships (family, close friends) that will truly add meaning to your life, according to the researchers. Spending time with your close ties can sometimes be tough—they force you to focus on big issues, not just small talk—but the rewards are worth it.

2. Don’t shy away from stress
The things that add the most meaning to your life—a high-pressure job, raising kids, caring for a loved one—are often the same things that add the most stress to your day-to-day existence. But don’t assume that taking the easy road is the better option. “Often those biggest challenges in life (those that cause stress in the short term) lead to the biggest gains in the long run,” says Jennifer Aaker, Ph.D., a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and one of the authors of the study.

3. Think about the past, present, and future
According to the findings of this recent study, happiness is something that’s experienced mainly in the here and now. “Meaning, on the other hand, seems to come from assembling past, present, and future into some kind of coherent story,” Aaker says.

4. Be a giver
Not surprisingly, the study found that doing things to help others will help add meaning to your life. (Happiness, on the other hand, was linked to being a “taker.”) By helping someone else, you’re ultimately doing something positive for both parties involved.

5. Find a sense of purpose
Fulfilling short-term desires may provide a bit of happiness, but in the long run, finding things that feed your soul will bring the most satisfaction. The study found that people who spent more time pursuing activities that reflected their sense of self rated their lives as more meaningful. “Our findings suggest that happiness is mainly about getting what one wants and needs, including from other people or even just by using money,” the study authors wrote. “In contrast, meaningfulness was linked to doing things that express and reflect the self and in particular to doing positive things for others.”

But the good news is that pursuing meaning over straight-up happiness can help you in more ways than one. “There is research to suggest that when people add more meaning to their life, happiness is a result,” Aaker says. So maybe you really can have it all.


source: news.health.com

 


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Mindfulness at School Decreases Chance of Developing Depression

Positive results from best study yet carried out on teaching mindfulness in schools.

Mindfulness training in schools has been found to reduce and even prevent depression in adolescents.

The finding comes from research carried out in 408 students between the ages of 13 and 20 who were studying at five schools in Flanders, Belgium (Raes et al., 2013).

Matched classes were assigned either to mindfulness training or to a control condition who simply continued with their other classes as normal.

Their depression, anxiety and stress levels were measured before and after the intervention, as well as six months later.

Happier students

The results showed similar levels of depression when they started the study: 21% of those in the mindfulness group were depressed, and 24% in the control group.

After the mindfulness intervention, the percentage of pupils who were clinically depressed had dropped to 15%, and after six months it remained lower than baseline at 16%.

Meanwhile, in the control group, levels of depression had actually increased, up to 27% and after six months up to 31%.

The study’s results, therefore, suggest that mindfulness training can lead to reductions in depression. These gains are also likely to be maintained for at least six months after the intervention.

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Stay in the moment

The mindfulness training used in the study had been specially adapted for adolescents, although the principles of mindfulness are the same for everyone.

Mindfulness is about learning to pay attention to what’s going on right now, in this present moment:

    “Mindfulness refers to a compassionate and nonjudgmental moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experiences.” (Raes et al., 2013).

To that end students across the sessions were encouraged to focus on:

    “attention to the breath and the moment” (session 1), “attention to the body and pleasant moments” (session 2), “attention to your inner boundaries and to unpleasant moments” (session 3), “attention to stress and space” (session 4), “attention to thoughts and emotion” (session 5), “attention to interpretations and communication” (session 6), “attention to your attitudes and your moods” (session 7), and “attention to yourself and your heartfulness (session 8)” (Raes et al., 2013).

Once taught, students could continue to benefit from these early lessons for a lifetime, perhaps immeasurably improving their lives.


source: PsyBlog

 


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Overweight And Healthy: A Combo That Looks Too Good To Be True

by Nancy Shute    December 03, 2013

Overweight or obese people are indeed more likely to die prematurely than people of normal weight, say researchers who’ve analyzed the data. Their conclusion throws cold water on recent studies that have found some excess weight isn’t so bad.

Earlier this year, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that overweight people actually live a bit longer than their skinnier peers.

But the says that overweight people who already have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or insulin resistance don’t live longer and are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Same goes for overweight people without those issues, it turns out.

The CDC study didn’t look at those factors, which are considered major health risks and when lumped together are called .

“Sometimes the message changes when you look closer,” says Dr. Caroline Kramer, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto who led the study. “It’s not OK to be overweight. It’s not OK to be obese, even though you might not have metabolic abnormalities.”

The notion of healthy obesity is appealing to patients and doctors.

If both states could really coexist, it would mean that some of the 38 percent of Americans who are might not have to lose lots of pounds to get or stay healthy. Doctors wouldn’t have to badger patients to lose weight. And the health care system wouldn’t have to invest lots of time and money in weight-loss programs and bariatric surgery.

But figuring out who those healthy obese people are, or even if they exist, has turned out to be a challenge. The CDC study compared people’s , or BMI, to their longevity. It found that obese people died earlier, but that overweight people had a slightly lower risk of death than normal-weight people — about 6 percent.

But that study, which was published in February, was heavily criticized because it didn’t look at the health of the people studied. You can be thin because you’re dying of cancer.

The new study tried to make up for some of those shortcomings by looking not just at people’s BMI and age at death, but at their metabolic status and whether or not they had cardiovascular disease. The findings were published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers conducted what’s called a that evaluated eight previously published studies of 61,386 people. They found that people of any weight who had metabolic abnormalities were more likely to die earlier from all causes. They also were more likely to have cardiovascular disease. And the risk increased as the amount of excess weight increased. And the more risk factors someone had, the higher the likelihood of early death and disease.

People who were obese without having metabolic syndrome also had a higher risk of death, so they weren’t protected by being healthier. That’s because being obese affects many other things including hormones and growth factors, Kramer says, and not just commonly used measures like blood pressure.

But when the meta-analysis looked at overweight people, it found that those who had normal metabolic profiles had no increased risk of death. Still, Kramer says they’re not off the hook.

The overweight people also had slightly elevated metabolic markers. In other words, their blood pressure was on the high end of normal. Over time, Kramer says, their risks will increase, especially if they keep gaining weight. Increased death risks didn’t show up until people had been observed for 10 years or more. About one-third of Americans are .

This study has its shortcomings too, of course. The data used didn’t reveal people’s health behaviors, and didn’t track weight changes over time. Clearly this isn’t the last word on this contentious topic.

But it is further ammunition for the argument that, as an accompanying wrote, “No level of obesity is healthy.”

source: www.npr.org


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Fish Oil Might Guard Against Loss of Brain Cells

Study found women who ate the most omega-3s had greater brain volume

By Mary Brophy Marcus   HealthDay Reporter   WebMD News
 
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 22, 2014 (HealthDay News) – The more you consume the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils, the less likely you are to lose as many precious brain cells as you age, a new study suggests.

More research is needed, however, to understand both why this happens and how much of the nutrient brings about the most benefit, the researchers said.

“Our findings support the idea that a higher omega-3 status from fish or supplements is good for brain health,” said study author James Pottala, an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of South Dakota’s Sanford School of Medicine.

According to the study, which was published online Jan. 22 in the journal Neurology, the researchers tested levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the red blood cells of more than 1,000 older women. Eight years later, the women had MRI scans that measured their brain volumes. At the time of the scans, the women were an average of 78 years old.

Participants whose omega-3 levels were twice as high had a 0.7 percent higher brain volume. “The results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years,” Pottala said.

Higher omega-3 levels also were associated with greater volume in the hippocampus, the region of the brain in which the memory-robbing disease Alzheimer’s first attacks.

The study offers valuable information, said Dr. Gregory Cole, associate director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of Southern California.

“[The study] has a large number of subjects with an objective measure – the measure of brain volume,” Cole said. “Studies that measure things like [memory and thinking] are not as concrete. People have good days and bad days, but when you measure brain volume you get a pretty repeatable measure.”

It’s also a plus that the participants are all the same gender, so there is no gender variation in brain size to factor in, Cole said.

The study’s findings are intriguing, said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “[But] the results should be interpreted cautiously because it’s an observational study and not a randomized clinical trial looking at the relationship between omega-3 intake and changes in brain volume,” she said.

Although the study showed an association between omega-3 intake and improved brain health, it didn’t necessarily prove a cause-and-effect link.

Manson is the principal investigator in a study involving more than 20,000 adults across the United States looking at whether taking daily dietary supplements of vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk for certain diseases.

The study involves memory testing as well, Manson said. “We’ll have some more information in another two to three years, and I think that will be important to see if increasing supplementation with omega-3s is having a clinical impact on [brain] function,” she said.

Cole said clinical trials are the only way to find out if high omega-3 consumption really increases brain volume and reduces the risk for dementia.

“This is pretty believable. This is a solid finding,” he said. “The question is: How can you translate this into [effectiveness] in people? Will it really work to protect peoples’ brains?”

In the meantime, people who want to boost their omega-3 intake can eat nonfried ‘oily’ fish such as salmon, herring, tuna and sardines. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week.

source: www.webmd.com

 


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Muppets mini-makeover aims to boost kids’ health

Associated Press

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE    January 23, 2014

Bert and Ernie jump rope and munch apples and carrots, and Cookie Monster has his namesake treat once a week, not every day. Can a Muppets mini-makeover improve kids’ health, too?

A three-year experiment in South America suggests it can. Now, the Sesame Street project is coming to the United States.

Already, a test run in a New York City preschool has seen results: Four-year-old Jahmeice Strowder got her mom to make cauliflower for the first time in her life. A classmate, Bryson Payne, bugged his dad for a banana every morning and more salads. A parent brought home a loaf of bread instead of Doritos.

“What we created, I believe, is a culture” of healthy eating to fight a “toxic environment” of junk food and too little exercise, said Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiologist at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

Six years ago, he started working with Sesame Workshop, producers of television’s Sesame Street, on a project aimed at 3-to-5-year-olds.

“At that age they pay attention to everything” and habits can be changed, he said.

The need is clear: A third of U.S. children and teens are obese or overweight. Many don’t get enough exercise, and a recent study found that kids’ fitness has declined worldwide. They’re at high risk for heart and other problems later in life.

“The focus is younger and younger” to try to prevent this, said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a University of Colorado pediatrician and a spokesman for the American Heart Association. The group’s annual conference in November featured Fuster’s experiment as one of the year’s top achievements in heart disease prevention.

For Sesame Street, the project offered a chance to improve the lives of young viewers and give a makeover to certain Muppets.

“While Cookie Monster is an engaging figure, we felt there was an opportunity there to really model healthy eating,” said Jorge Baxter, regional director for Latin America for Sesame Workshop.

The new message is that certain things like cookies are “something you can eat sometimes, but there are some foods that you can eat all the time,” like vegetables, he said. The healthy messages have been gradually incorporated into the television show, and its producers even made a doctor Muppet — Dr. Ruster (pronounced “Rooster”) — in Fuster’s image for the preschool project.

It launched in Colombia because U.S. schools that Fuster approached years ago were reluctant, but a wealthy family’s foundation was willing to sponsor the experiment in Bogota.

muppets

It involved 1,216 children and 928 parents from 14 preschools. Some were given the program and others served as a comparison group.

Kids had training on healthy habits and how the body works for an hour a day for five months using Sesame Workshop-produced videos, a board game (the “heart game”), songs, posters and activities. Parents were involved through take-home assignments and workshops that focused on overcoming barriers to good food and exercise. For example, in areas with poor access to parks or play spaces, parents were coached to encourage kids to use stairs instead of elevators and to walk instead of taking a bus.

Children’s weight and exercise habits were measured at the start and 1 1/2 and 3 years later. Although many moved or dropped out by the time the study ended, researchers documented a significant increase in knowledge, attitude and health habit scores among kids in the program versus the comparison group.

The proportion of children at a healthy weight increased from 62 percent at the start to 75 percent at three years for those in the program. Ironically, in Colombia, that mostly meant that more undernourished kids grew to reach a healthy weight.

In New York, where the program plans to launch in several early childhood and Head Start programs this spring and fall, project leaders will have to tackle under- and overweight kids.

“A lot of the kids are from low-income families, shelters,” and many have poor access to healthy foods, said Rachael Lynch, director of educational services for an Episcopal Social Services preschool, The Learning Center, in Harlem. “It’s a mecca for fast food around here. We’re trying to get them to walk past the Chinese food or pizza or McDonald’s, to go home and make something.”

Her preschool tested the Sesame Street project last summer and “it really took off” with kids and parents, she said.

“They love it. The kids relate, I can’t stress it enough,” to the Sesame Street characters, she said.

The program had kids work in a nearby community garden one day a week to learn about growing vegetables. They had a “mystery food box” to reach inside, feel and guess the contents, then use what they found to make a healthy snack such as smoothies, fruit salads, microwaved baked apples and apple dip.

Children took home a “weekend update” to list and draw pictures of what they ate. Parents were asked to sign it to encourage an adult focus on healthy meals.

Kateshia Strowder said the program had a big impact on her and her daughter, Jahmeice.

“We’d be in the grocery store and she would name every vegetable. It’s amazing. Brussels sprouts — she likes it. Cabbage — she likes it,” Strowder said. “I’m not a vegetable eater, to be honest. But I had to learn to do those things for her.”

Donte Payne said the same for his son, Bryson, a 4-year-old who also was in the Harlem program.

“It made him more interested in eating more healthy things,” Payne said. “He became very interested in salads. He loves salad now.”

In Colombia, the program is now expanding to about 20,000 children, and in Spain, a project is starting in Madrid. In New York, a foundation Fuster runs at Mount Sinai will sponsor the U.S. launch, aided by private donors.

Dr. Jaime Cespedes, a pediatric and heart specialist who helped lead the project in Colombia believes it will succeed wherever it is tried.

“Sesame knows kids, knows media and how to communicate the messages,” he said. “When you get the kids to deliver the message to the family, change will come.”

Online: Sesame Street healthy habits: http://bit.ly/1fd4TvI

source: news.yahoo.com



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Caramel colouring in pop to be studied by FDA

Safety analysis will help U.S. agency determine if regulatory change needed

The Associated Press     Posted: Jan 23, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is conducting new studies of the safety of caramel colouring in soft drinks and other foods, even though previous research has shown no identifiable health risk.

The agency’s announcement comes in response to a study by Consumer Reports that shows varying levels of 4-methylimidazole — an impurity formed in some caramel colouring at low levels during the manufacturing process — in 12 brands of soda from five manufacturers.
hi-pop-shopping-852-cp-03951859

Coke, Pepsi and other soft drink makers say they have directed their caramel-colour suppliers to reduce levels of 4-methylimidazole.

The FDA says it has already studied the use of caramel as a flavor and colour additive for decades and it has no reason to believe the colouring used is unsafe. The agency said it is also reviewing new data on the safety of 4-methylimidazole but did not say what that data is.

“These efforts will inform the FDA’s safety analysis and will help the agency determine what, if any, regulatory action needs to be taken,” said FDA spokeswoman Juli Putnam.

There are no federal limits on the amount of 4-methylimidazole, which the FDA says can also form in trace amounts when coffee beans are roasted or some meats are grilled.

The Consumer Reports study urged the agency to set a maximum level of the substance when it is artificially added to foods or soda, to require labelling when it is added and to bar products from carrying the “natural” label if they contain caramel colours.

“There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from colouring food and beverages brown,” said Consumer Reports’ Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and lead investigator on the study.

Though studies have not been conclusive about whether 4-methylimidazole is a carcinogen, California includes it on the state list of carcinogens and a state law mandates a cancer warning label on products that have a certain level of the substance. In reaction to that law, Coke, Pepsi and other soft drink makers have directed their caramel-colour suppliers to reduce the levels of 4-methylimidazole. It is not found in all caramel colourings.

Over an eight-month period, the study found that single servings of two products purchased in California, Pepsi One and the beverage Malta Goya, exceeded the 29 micrograms of 4-methylimidazole that are the threshold in California but carried no warning. Consumer Reports has asked the California attorney general’s office to investigate; a spokesman for the attorney general says the office is reviewing the request.

PepsiCo spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said the company is “extremely concerned” about the study and believes it is factually incorrect.

Gonzalez said the average amount of soda consumed daily by those who drink it is less than a 355-mL can, so the samples actually do not exceed the limit of 29 micrograms a day.

“All of Pepsi’s products are below the threshold set in California and all are in full compliance with the law,” she said.

The drinks tested were Sprite, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola, Coke Zero, Dr Pepper, Dr. Snap, Brisk Iced Tea, A&W Root Beer, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi One and Goya Malta. Consumer Reports said there was no significant level found in Sprite, and consistently low levels were found in Coke products.

source: www.cbc.ca

 


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Omega 3s for Weight Loss: Timing is Everything

Michelle Schoffro Cook      January 17, 2014

You’ve probably heard that Omega 3 fatty acids are good for you. You may even know they help with weight loss. But, timing when you ingest them plays a huge role in how much fat you’ll burn or whether you’ll burn fat at all.

walnuts


When researching my book 60 Seconds to Slim, I discovered that when people take Omega 3 fatty acids, or ingest them from food sources, plays a significant role in whether they’ll lose weight. By taking Omega 3s or eating Omega-3 rich foods within one hour of working out, the body will burn 14% more fat than through exercise alone.

It’s easy to obtain Omega-3 fatty acids from diet if you consume the following foods on a daily basis:

  • A handful of raw, unsalted walnuts
  • A tablespoon of freshly-ground flaxseeds two times daily or a tablespoon of flaxseed oil drizzled on food
  • Fatty fish like wild salmon, flounder, catfish, sardines, mackerel, herring, kipper, or whitebait. Tuna also contains high amounts of Omega 3s but is frequently contaminated with high levels of mercury.

If you’re supplementing with Omega 3s, 2000 milligrams of eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) is a typical daily dose.

Omega 3 fatty acids have many other health benefits too, including:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Brain disease prevention
  • Preventing diabetes
  • Pain-reduction
  • Joint healing and arthritis-prevention