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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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7 Spices Loaded with Serious Flavor—And Incredible Health Benefits

by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market    November 9, 2015 

Cayenne pepper really hit its prime in the early aughts. When Giselle Bundchen credited cayenne with helping maintain her slim, Victoria’s Secret-worthy figure, the spice was suddenly stylish.
It’s almost too easy—just a pinch of some magic powder and suddenly you’re a fat-burning machine? Well maybe not a machine, but fiery cayenne does seem to have an effect on increasing the metabolism. It’s well documented that turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that give Advil a run for its money, and cinnamon is coveted amongst those with metabolic disorders thanks to its blood sugar-lowering effect.

The rest of your spice rack isn’t to be overlooked—there are some superfood seasonings hidden in the pantry that are worthy of a little more love. Put down the salt and start cooking with these spices—your blood pressure, waistline, and tastebuds will thank you.

Paprika

Sweet, spicy, smoky—paprika comes in tons of different flavors and varieties, but it’s always a vibrant brick red. Thanks to its plenitude of antioxidants that impart its quintessential color, paprika is also full of vitamins A and E. Together, they fight free radical damage in the body, but vitamin A also promotes cell growth and recovery, which supports anti-aging.

Fennel

With its distinct taste and smell, fennel is often loved or loathed. If you fall into the latter category, this classic Italian seasoning is worth your adoration—full of phytonutrients, fennel has been proven to have anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. A special phytonutrient called anethole found in fennel has been linked to slowing the growth of cancer cells and apoptosis, or cell death, in breast cancer cells. Additionally, fennel’s antioxidants can help reverse damage to liver cells… So after a really rough night out, look to this spice to help heal your hangover.

Cloves

Especially popular in some of the most beloved holiday foods—gingerbread, hot toddies, and pumpkin pie, to name a few—cloves are a warming and aromatic addition to any dish. Along with their lovely flavor, cloves impart another interesting element to dishes: eugenol. A compound found specifically in clove oil, eugenol is incredibly effective at protecting the body from external toxins found in the environment, like carbon tetrachloride. It’s also a potent natural pesticide, so mixing a little clove oil into your lotion can ward off annoying mosquitos and bugs.

spicerack

 

Bay Leaves

You don’t really realize how important bay leaves are to Grandma’s chicken noodle soup, your favorite bolognese sauce, or classic cooked beans until you accidentally forget to throw one into the mix. When you do overlook these dried leaves, it’s clear that something is missing. Although the pungent, almost bittersweet flavor of bay leaves isn’t necessarily appetizing on its own, when added into dishes and left to simmer, they impart a little extra depth and dimension. Plus, as it turns out, these leaves also bring some pharmacological properties to the table.

Even dried, bay leaves help the digestive system function properly, acting as a diuretic and eliminating toxins. They also contain a plethora of B-vitamins that support the nervous system to increase energy and amp up the metabolic rate.

Thyme

Whether fresh or dried, thyme deserves a permanent place in your pantry, especially during the fall and winter months. The woody and aromatic herb has been used for centuries in aromatherapy to treat illness, but it’s proven over time to be a powerful antimicrobial treatment. In fact, thyme actually encourages a healthy immune system by increasing white blood cell formation. Next time you feel a chill coming on, throw some thyme into almost any savory dish to reap the immune-boosting benefits of this spice.

Black pepper

Try not to roll your eyes. Black pepper—no duh! Of course you already know about this spice. But before you skim to the next incredible ingredient, reconsider black pepper for its fat-burning powers. Yep, you read that right. That freshly ground black pepper you’ve been declining at restaurants for years can actually help your body break down fat cells. Plus, pepper raises core body temperature, forcing the body to eliminate toxins via sweat.

Nutmeg

Too often, nutmeg is relegated to holiday treats (what’s up, eggnog), but there are plenty of reasons to throw nutmeg into your cooking all year round. Nutmeg has long been used as a home remedy for insomnia—and there’s actually something to this old wives tale.

This spice has a high magnesium content, which has been proven to help those who suffer through restless nights fall asleep and relax far more easily than normally. The powerful antioxidants myristicin and elemicin found in nutmeg fight inflammation and pain, and some researchers believe actually slow down the deterioration of neural pathways in the brain. Slow down aging and maintain memory for a long time? Sounds like it’s time to start adding nutmeg to every morning cup of joe.


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The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment

We live in the age of distraction. Yet one of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that your brightest future hinges on your ability to pay attention to the present.

By Jay Dixit,        published on November 1, 2008 – last reviewed on August 11, 2015

A friend was walking in the desert when he found the telephone to God. The setting was Burning Man, an electronic arts and music festival for which 50,000 people descend on Black Rock City, Nevada, for eight days of “radical self-expression”—dancing, socializing, meditating, and debauchery.

A phone booth in the middle of the desert with a sign that said “Talk to God” was a surreal sight even at Burning Man. The idea was that you picked up the phone, and God—or someone claiming to be God—would be at the other end to ease your pain.

So when God came on the line asking how he could help, my friend was ready. “How can I live more in the moment?” he asked. Too often, he felt, the beautiful moments of his life were drowned out by a cacophony of self-consciousness and anxiety. What could he do to hush the buzzing of his mind?

“Breathe,” replied a soothing male voice.

My friend flinched at the tired new-age mantra, then reminded himself to keep an open mind. When God talks, you listen.

“Whenever you feel anxious about your future or your past, just breathe,” continued God. “Try it with me a few times right now. Breathe in… breathe out.” And despite himself, my friend began to relax.

You Are Not Your Thoughts

Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past. “We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence,” says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. We’re always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.

When we’re at work, we fantasize about being on vacation; on vacation, we worry about the work piling up on our desks. We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future. We don’t appreciate the living present because our “monkey minds,” as Buddhists call them, vault from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

Most of us don’t undertake our thoughts in awareness. Rather, our thoughts control us. “Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall,” writes Jon Kabat-Zinn, the biomedical scientist who introduced meditation into mainstream medicine. In order to feel more in control of our minds and our lives, to find the sense of balance that eludes us, we need to step out of this current, to pause, and, as Kabat-Zinn puts it, to “rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being.”

We need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.

Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness of the present bestows a host of benefits. Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease. Mindfulness may even slow the progression of HIV.

Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the kinds of impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems. Mindful people can hear negative feedback without feeling threatened. They fight less with their romantic partners and are more accommodating and less defensive. As a result, mindful couples have more satisfying relationships.

Mindfulness is at the root of Buddhism, Taoism, and many Native-American traditions, not to mention yoga. It’s why Thoreau went to Walden Pond; it’s what Emerson and Whitman wrote about in their essays and poems.

“Everyone agrees it’s important to live in the moment, but the problem is how,” says Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard and author of Mindfulness. “When people are not in the moment, they’re not there to know that they’re not there.” Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes intentionality and practice.

Living in the moment involves a profound paradox: You can’t pursue it for its benefits. That’s because the expectation of reward launches a future-oriented mindset, which subverts the entire process. Instead, you just have to trust that the rewards will come. There are many paths to mindfulness—and at the core of each is a paradox. Ironically, letting go of what you want is the only way to get it. Here are a few tricks to help you along.

1: To improve your performance, stop thinking about it (unselfconsciousness).

I’ve never felt comfortable on a dance floor. My movements feel awkward. I feel like people are judging me. I never know what to do with my arms. I want to let go, but I can’t, because I know I look ridiculous.

“Loosen up, no one’s watching you,” people always say. “Everyone’s too busy worrying about themselves.” So how come they always make fun of my dancing the next day?

The dance world has a term for people like me: “absolute beginner.” Which is why my dance teacher, Jessica Hayden, the owner of Shockra Studio in Manhattan, started at the beginning, sitting me down on a bench and having me tap my feet to the beat as Jay-Z thumped away in the background. We spent the rest of the class doing “isolations”—moving just our shoulders, ribs, or hips—to build “body awareness.”

But even more important than body awareness, Hayden said, was present-moment awareness. “Be right here right now!” she’d say. “Just let go and let yourself be in the moment.”

That’s the first paradox of living in the moment: Thinking too hard about what you’re doing actually makes you do worse. If you’re in a situation that makes you anxious—giving a speech, introducing yourself to a stranger, dancing—focusing on your anxiety tends to heighten it. “When I say, ‘be here with me now,’ I mean don’t zone out or get too in-your-head—instead, follow my energy, my movements,” says Hayden. “Focus less on what’s going on in your mind and more on what’s going on in the room, less on your mental chatter and more on yourself as part of something.” To be most myself, I needed to focus on things outside myself, like the music or the people around me.

Indeed, mindfulness blurs the line between self and other, explains Michael Kernis, a psychologist at the University of Georgia. “When people are mindful, they’re more likely to experience themselves as part of humanity, as part of a greater universe.” That’s why highly mindful people such as Buddhist monks talk about being “one with everything.”

By reducing self-consciousness, mindfulness allows you to witness the passing drama of feelings, social pressures, even of being esteemed or disparaged by others without taking their evaluations personally, explain Richard Ryan and K. W. Brown of the University of Rochester. When you focus on your immediate experience without attaching it to your self-esteem, unpleasant events like social rejection—or your so-called friends making fun of your dancing—seem less threatening.

Focusing on the present moment also forces you to stop overthinking. “Being present-minded takes away some of that self-evaluation and getting lost in your mind—and in the mind is where we make the evaluations that beat us up,” says Stephen Schueller, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Instead of getting stuck in your head and worrying, you can let yourself go.

2: To avoid worrying about the future, focus on the present (savoring).

In her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a friend who, whenever she sees a beautiful place, exclaims in a near panic, “It’s so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!” “It takes all my persuasive powers,” writes Gilbert, “to try to convince her that she is already here.”

Often, we’re so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy, what’s happening right now. We sip coffee and think, “This is not as good as what I had last week.” We eat a cookie and think, “I hope I don’t run out of cookies.”

Instead, relish or luxuriate in whatever you’re doing at the present moment—what psychologists call savoring. “This could be while you’re eating a pastry, taking a shower, or basking in the sun. You could be savoring a success or savoring music,” explains Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California at Riverside and author of The How of Happiness. “Usually it involves your senses.”

When subjects in a study took a few minutes each day to actively savor something they usually hurried through—eating a meal, drinking a cup of tea, walking to the bus—they began experiencing more joy, happiness, and other positive emotions, and fewer depressive symptoms, Schueller found.

Why does living in the moment make people happier—not just at the moment they’re tasting molten chocolate pooling on their tongue, but lastingly? Because most negative thoughts concern the past or the future. As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” The hallmark of depression and anxiety is catastrophizing—worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and might not happen at all. Worry, by its very nature, means thinking about the future—and if you hoist yourself into awareness of the present moment, worrying melts away.

The flip side of worrying is ruminating, thinking bleakly about events in the past. And again, if you press your focus into the now, rumination ceases. Savoring forces you into the present, so you can’t worry about things that aren’t there.

3: If you want a future with your significant other, inhabit the present (breathe).

Living consciously with alert interest has a powerful effect on interpersonal life. Mindfulness actually inoculates people against aggressive impulses, say Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia. In a study they conducted, each subject was told that other subjects were forming a group—and taking a vote on whether she could join. Five minutes later, the experimenter announced the results—either the subject had gotten the least number of votes and been rejected or she’d been accepted. Beforehand, half the subjects had undergone a mindfulness exercise in which each slowly ate a raisin, savoring its taste and texture and focusing on each sensation.

Later, in what they thought was a separate experiment, subjects had the opportunity to deliver a painful blast of noise to another person. Among subjects who hadn’t eaten the raisin, those who were told they’d been rejected by the group became aggressive, inflicting long and painful sonic blasts without provocation. Stung by social rejection, they took it out on other people.

But among those who’d eaten the raisin first, it didn’t matter whether they’d been ostracized or embraced. Either way, they were serene and unwilling to inflict pain on others—exactly like those who were given word of social acceptance.

How does being in the moment make you less aggressive? “Mindfulness decreases ego involvement,” explains Kernis. “So people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value.” Mindfulness also makes people feel more connected to other people—that empathic feeling of being “at one with the universe.”

Mindfulness boosts your awareness of how you interpret and react to what’s happening in your mind. It increases the gap between emotional impulse and action, allowing you to do what Buddhists call recognizing the spark before the flame. Focusing on the present reboots your mind so you can respond thoughtfully rather than automatically. Instead of lashing out in anger, backing down in fear, or mindlessly indulging a passing craving, you get the opportunity to say to yourself, “This is the emotion I’m feeling. How should I respond?”

mind

Mindfulness increases self-control; since you’re not getting thrown by threats to your self-esteem, you’re better able to regulate your behavior. That’s the other irony: Inhabiting your own mind more fully has a powerful effect on your interactions with others.

Of course, during a flare-up with your significant other it’s rarely practical to duck out and savor a raisin. But there’s a simple exercise you can do anywhere, anytime to induce mindfulness: Breathe. As it turns out, the advice my friend got in the desert was spot-on. There’s no better way to bring yourself into the present moment than to focus on your breathing. Because you’re placing your awareness on what’s happening right now, you propel yourself powerfully into the present moment. For many, focusing on the breath is the preferred method of orienting themselves to the now—not because the breath has some magical property, but because it’s always there with you.

4: To make the most of time, lose track of it (flow).

Perhaps the most complete way of living in the moment is the state of total absorption psychologists call flow. Flow occurs when you’re so engrossed in a task that you lose track of everything else around you. Flow embodies an apparent paradox: How can you be living in the moment if you’re not even aware of the moment? The depth of engagement absorbs you powerfully, keeping attention so focused that distractions cannot penetrate. You focus so intensely on what you’re doing that you’re unaware of the passage of time. Hours can pass without you noticing.

Flow is an elusive state. As with romance or sleep, you can’t just will yourself into it—all you can do is set the stage, creating the optimal conditions for it to occur.

The first requirement for flow is to set a goal that’s challenging but not unattainable—something you have to marshal your resources and stretch yourself to achieve. The task should be matched to your ability level—not so difficult that you’ll feel stressed, but not so easy that you’ll get bored. In flow, you’re firing on all cylinders to rise to a challenge.

To set the stage for flow, goals need to be clearly defined so that you always know your next step. “It could be playing the next bar in a scroll of music, or finding the next foothold if you’re a rock climber, or turning the page if you’re reading a good novel,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first defined the concept of flow. “At the same time, you’re kind of anticipating.”

You also need to set up the task in such a way that you receive direct and immediate feedback; with your successes and failures apparent, you can seamlessly adjust your behavior. A climber on the mountain knows immediately if his foothold is secure; a pianist knows instantly when she’s played the wrong note.

As your attentional focus narrows, self-consciousness evaporates. You feel as if your awareness merges with the action you’re performing. You feel a sense of personal mastery over the situation, and the activity is so intrinsically rewarding that although the task is difficult, action feels effortless.

5: If something is bothering you, move toward it rather than away from it (acceptance).

We all have pain in our lives, whether it’s the ex we still long for, the jackhammer snarling across the street, or the sudden wave of anxiety when we get up to give a speech. If we let them, such irritants can distract us from the enjoyment of life. Paradoxically, the obvious response—focusing on the problem in order to combat and overcome it—often makes it worse, argues Stephen Hayes, a psychologist at the University of Nevada.

The mind’s natural tendency when faced with pain is to attempt to avoid it—by trying to resist unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When we lose a love, for instance, we fight our feelings of heartbreak. As we get older, we work feverishly to recapture our youth. When we’re sitting in the dentist’s chair waiting for a painful root canal, we wish we were anywhere but there. But in many cases, negative feelings and situations can’t be avoided—and resisting them only magnifies the pain.

The problem is we have not just primary emotions but also secondary ones—emotions about other emotions. We get stressed out and then think, “I wish I weren’t so stressed out.” The primary emotion is stress over your workload. The secondary emotion is feeling, “I hate being stressed.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. The solution is acceptance—letting the emotion be there. That is, being open to the way things are in each moment without trying to manipulate or change the experience—without judging it, clinging to it, or pushing it away. The present moment can only be as it is. Trying to change it only frustrates and exhausts you. Acceptance relieves you of this needless extra suffering.

Suppose you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend or boyfriend; you’re heartbroken, overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and longing. You could try to fight these feelings, essentially saying, “I hate feeling this way; I need to make this feeling go away.” But by focusing on the pain—being sad about being sad—you only prolong the sadness. You do yourself a favor by accepting your feelings, saying instead, “I’ve just had a breakup. Feelings of loss are normal and natural. It’s OK for me to feel this way.”

Acceptance of an unpleasant state doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future. It just means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The sadness, stress, pain, or anger is there whether you like it or not. Better to embrace the feeling as it is.

Nor does acceptance mean you have to like what’s happening. “Acceptance of the present moment has nothing to do with resignation,” writes Kabat-Zinn. “Acceptance doesn’t tell you what to do. What happens next, what you choose to do; that has to come out of your understanding of this moment.”

If you feel anxiety, for instance, you can accept the feeling, label it as anxiety—then direct your attention to something else instead. You watch your thoughts, perceptions, and emotions flit through your mind without getting involved. Thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t have to believe them and you don’t have to do what they say.

6: Know that you don’t know (engagement).

You’ve probably had the experience of driving along a highway only to suddenly realize you have no memory or awareness of the previous 15 minutes. Maybe you even missed your exit. You just zoned out; you were somewhere else, and it’s as if you’ve suddenly woken up at the wheel. Or maybe it happens when you’re reading a book: “I know I just read that page, but I have no idea what it said.”

These autopilot moments are what Harvard’s Ellen Langer calls mindlessness—times when you’re so lost in your thoughts that you aren’t aware of your present experience. As a result, life passes you by without registering on you. The best way to avoid such blackouts, Langer says, is to develop the habit of always noticing new things in whatever situation you’re in. That process creates engagement with the present moment and releases a cascade of other benefits. Noticing new things puts you emphatically in the here and now.

We become mindless, Langer explains, because once we think we know something, we stop paying attention to it. We go about our morning commute in a haze because we’ve trod the same route a hundred times before. But if we see the world with fresh eyes, we realize almost everything is different each time—the pattern of light on the buildings, the faces of the people, even the sensations and feelings we experience along the way. Noticing imbues each moment with a new, fresh quality. Some people have termed this “beginner’s mind.”

By acquiring the habit of noticing new things, says Langer, we recognize that the world is actually changing constantly. We really don’t know how the espresso is going to taste or how the commute will be—or at least, we’re not sure.

Orchestra musicians who are instructed to make their performance new in subtle ways not only enjoy themselves more but audiences actually prefer those performances. “When we’re there at the moment, making it new, it leaves an imprint in the music we play, the things we write, the art we create, in everything we do,” says Langer. “Once you recognize that you don’t know the things you’ve always taken for granted, you set out of the house quite differently. It becomes an adventure in noticing—and the more you notice, the more you see.” And the more excitement you feel.

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There

Living a consistently mindful life takes effort. But mindfulness itself is easy. “People set the goal of being mindful for the next 20 minutes or the next two weeks, then they think mindfulness is difficult because they have the wrong yardstick,” says Jay Winner, a California-based family physician and author of Take the Stress out of Your Life. “The correct yardstick is just for this moment.”

Mindfulness is the only intentional, systematic activity that is not about trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, explains Kabat-Zinn. It is simply a matter of realizing where you already are. A cartoon from The New Yorker sums it up: Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is giving the older one a quizzical look, to which the older one responds, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”

You can become mindful at any moment just by paying attention to your immediate experience. You can do it right now. What’s happening this instant? Think of yourself as an eternal witness, and just observe the moment. What do you see, hear, smell? It doesn’t matter how it feels—pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad—you roll with it because it’s what’s present; you’re not judging it. And if you notice your mind wandering, bring yourself back. Just say to yourself, “Now. Now. Now.”

Here’s the most fundamental paradox of all: Mindfulness isn’t a goal, because goals are about the future, but you do have to set the intention of paying attention to what’s happening at the present moment. As you read the words printed on this page, as your eyes distinguish the black squiggles on white paper, as you feel gravity anchoring you to the planet, wake up. Become aware of being alive. And breathe. As you draw your next breath, focus on the rise of your abdomen on the in-breath, the stream of heat through your nostrils on the out-breath. If you’re aware of that feeling right now, as you’re reading this, you’re living in the moment. Nothing happens next. It’s not a destination. This is it. You’re already there.


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7 Things Truly Kind People Do EVERY Day That Make Us Adore Them

By Jan Bowen

It’s hard not to love a person this great!

Have you ever noticed that kind people are also incredibly content in their life?

That’s because being kind literally increases our levels of health and happiness. Research shows this impacts our relationships positively, as well. Kindness helps keeps couples together. The more your partner is on the receiving end of your goodwill, the more likely they are to shower you with love in return.

Kindness is pretty awesome. It creates an overall climate of trust, acceptance and comfort. And let’s be honest — in this age of violence, war, general snarkiness, and online cruelty, “being kind” is it’s own form of social rebellion. What a fun way to “stick it” to an overly harsh world.

While over-the-top “nice” people tend to annoy us, genuine kindness is a trait pretty much everyone appreciates and admires. So what’s the difference between that amazing, kind person everyone adores and, well … you? Here a seven things they do every single day that make people want to be around them:

1. They’re kind to themselves. They know that being spontaneous and generous requires having solid stores of your own positive energy. So, they take care of meeting their own needs first, before giving to others. As a result, receiving from them feels like a true gift.

2. They’re grateful. Truly and deeply grateful … for life and all its blessings, its challenges, and its lessons. In every circumstance, they take time to find and acknowledge the kernel of good — viewing every situation with a glass half full mindset. They still acknowledge what’s challenging, but in facing it, they strive to help others keep perspective, too.

3. They truly listen. Even when they have something to add, they know how to just listen first to what others say, so that the person talking feels respected and understood. They connect fully, listen with interest, and don’t censor or talk-over what others are saying.

kindness

4. They’re confident. Their self-confidence allows them to indulge their big-hearted nature without expecting anything in return. And others find this quality incredibly attractive. Every day, kind people look for opportunities to give someone the benefit of the doubt — and they do. Because they’re confident in themselves, they don’t need to take others down for every misstep.

5. They genuinely care. Kind people pay attention and your happiness and well-being are on their mind. While they respect personal boundaries, they support and celebrate what serves your higher good. They want to know how your day is, how your mom is, and that the people in your life treat you right.

6. They laugh often. Kind people see the humor and irony in situations, without the snarkiness and meanness others typically show. Life is funny! And these awesome people know that sometimes the best gift you can give someone is just helping them laugh and lighten up. Dropping a witty comment at just the right moment — they are masters light-hearted comedy.

7. They’re respectful. They thrive on diversity but don’t expect others to share their opinions. They accept your right to your own viewpoint, even if they don’t agree with it. And they would never shame or embarrass someone in any way — verbally or non-verbally. They look out for others and try to protect them from feeling small in front of others.

Small acts of kindness make a big difference.

Grand gestures don’t always mean more than small kindnesses. After all, it’s the “little things” that show an awareness of others (who they are and what they love). Kind people put their love for you into action, through small thoughtful gestures that show they care enough to pay attention. Little things like: sending cards, making a phone call, buying presents.

But life is busy, times get hectic and we don’t always have time for those extra actions.

We will, however, always have time for kindness because it is the real intention and emotion behind those actions. Follow up with those gestures when you have the time and opportunity and watch how fast those around you begin to think you’re the kindest person they know.

But when you don’t, still make the time to take care of yourself, truly listen in a conversation, and be deeply grateful. And just see if the world doesn’t seem a little … or a lot… nicer.

Jan L. Bowen is an author and certified thought leader, experienced at helping her clients facilitate their life more joyfully and easily. 


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Weight Controlled by What We Put in Our Mouths, Not Exercise

People don’t always appreciate how easy it is to consume calories vs. working it off

CBC News Posted: Nov 12, 2015 

People often overestimate the number of calories they’ve burned by exercising, and underestimate how many calories are in the food they eat, experts say.

Exercise is important for many reasons such as cardiovascular fitness, but long-term studies have shown the amount of weight loss specifically from exercise programs is modest.

After burning off calories during exercise, the body tends to seek a balance by replacing the calories, driving up hunger, explains Steven Bray, a health psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton.

exercise
If you think a hard, fast-paced workout on a treadmill has earned you
the right to eat a burger and fries, think again.

“What’s challenging for most people is that it takes quite a bit of time at a high intensity to burn a lot of calories,” Bray said. “But we can consume a lot of calories very quickly. It’s very easy to probably overconsume and overcompensate for what might be a hunger that’s developed through the exercise that we’ve done.”

McMaster kinesiology Prof. Martin Gibala set up a mini-experiment for CBC News to test how much men and women choose to eat after working out on stationary bicycles while researchers measured the intensity of exercise and estimated how many calories were burned.

“I kind of got hungry and started craving a big meal so I chose pizza,” as well as fruits and vegetables, said Jeninel Sayes, one of the participants in the high-intensity group. “I think it is based on how much I sweat out.”

But an average person burns off only 200 to 300 calories at a moderate pace, Gibala said.

Those 300 calories don’t go far. For example, a commercially prepared apple fritter can contain 290 calories, and three-quarters of a blueberry muffin or less than a small-sized pumpkin spice latté both pack 330 calories.

“I tell my students that we control our body weight by what we put in our mouth and we control our fitness through exercise,” Gibala said.

source: www.cbc.ca


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Counting Your Blessings Can Improve Your Life

Health Benefits of Gratitude: 5 Ways Counting Your Blessings Can Improve Your Life

Thanksgiving will come and go, but the positive effects of gratitude can last all year. 

Gratitude can help you sleep better

In a study from Grant MacEwan University in Alberta, Canada, anxious students slept better when they jotted down a list of things they were thankful for before bed every night for a week than when they didn’t do the writing exercise. Study authors hypothesized that thinking about their blessings helped students reduce worry and quiet their minds.

Gratitude can increase your willpower

In a fascinating experiment from Harvard University and others, scientists challenged participants with a test of willpower: Take $54 now or receive $80 in 30 days. While they contemplated their decision, the subjects were asked to write about a time they felt grateful, happy, or neutral. Those who wrote about a grateful experience showed far more resolve to delay their reward than the rest of the group. The scientists believe gratitude fostered long-term thinking, which bolstered willpower.

gratitude

Gratitude can lower stress

Instead of counting worries, try putting a number to your blessings. According to science journalist Giovanni Alesio, several studies suggest that gratitude can decrease stress and anxiety by activating the areas in the brain that the release feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine.

Gratitude can help you make more friends

If you want to expand your social circle, try saying these two words: Thank you. In a 2015 study published in the journal Emotion, thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

Gratitude can reduce aches and pains

Sounds like a long shot, but according to research by Robert Emmons, a University of California, Davis professor and pioneer in the study of gratitude, grateful people report fewer symptoms of illness and are less bothered by aches and pains.

by Beth Dreher

source: www.rd.com


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Could the ‘Stress Hormone’ Affect Weight and Memory?

Cortisol Controls Stress, but What Else?

By Matt McMillen      WebMD Health News      Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Nov. 9, 2015 – Although cortisol is known as the “stress hormone,” researchers suspect it plays a much larger role in our health.

A recent study, for example, linked cortisol to memory in older adults. People with unusually high nighttime cortisol levels had reduced brain size and did more poorly on cognitive tests. Scientists are also investigating the hormone’s ties to heart disease risk and weight, to name a few.

“The effects of cortisol are felt over virtually the entire body,” says endocrinologist Robert Courgi, MD, who practices at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y.

But researchers are just starting to understand what those effects are.

“Many of us endocrinologists are interested in this idea that our day-to-day cortisol levels, whether they are high or low, might make a difference to our overall health,” says Lynnette Nieman, MD, chief of the Endocrinology Consultation Service at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. “But there aren’t a lot of data that speak to that question.”

In the brain study, researchers tested morning and evening cortisol levels in the saliva of 4,244 older adults. Those with higher evening levels appeared to have smaller brain volume and worse brain function, like processing speed and “executive functioning” skills, which include paying attention, switching focus, planning, and organization. Those with higher morning cortisol levels, though, appeared to have better brain function.

But the researchers couldn’t say which came first: unusually high cortisol or the reduced brain size.

“Clearly there is a physiologic relationship,” says Courgi, who wasn’t involved in the research. “But is it cause and effect? Is it because there’s too much cortisol that you’re having memory problems? Or does the loss of memory lead to elevated cortisol?”

Another link researchers are looking into is the hormone’s potential role in the number you see when you step on the scale.

“There’s concern that cortisol causes weight gain, but there’s also the question of cause and effect,” Courgi says. “Is it the weight gain that elevates the cortisol, or the elevated cortisol that leads to weight gain?”

Cortisol helps regulate blood sugar levels, metabolism, immune response, and blood pressure. It balances electrolytes, and it aids in pregnancy.

It’s made in the adrenal glands, which are located just above the kidneys. That production is controlled by hormones released by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, both of which are found in the brain.

Stress, Cortisol, and Adrenal Fatigue

Stress, Cortisol

In times of great stress, cortisol floods the bloodstream, allowing energy sources to be available and preparing the body for the stress. When working properly, brain signals tamp down the production of cortisol after the danger has passed.

“It’s an important regulating feature that keeps us from getting really high cortisol levels,” Nieman says.

That feature doesn’t get your cortisol levels completely back to normal though, she says. While that may be cause for concern, especially for people who remain under constant stress, it’s a question that needs more research, Nieman says.

Stress can be psychological, such as that caused by problems at home or at work. It can also be physical. Fevers and low blood sugar, for example, are both stressors, Courgi says.

Stress isn’t the only cause of higher cortisol levels. Other culprits include:

  • Lifestyle habits, such as heavy drinking, smoking, lack of sleep, and a bad diet
  • Depression
  • Benign tumors on the pituitary gland or, more rarely, on the adrenal glands, can cause cortisol production to skyrocket, a condition called Cushing’s syndrome.

“There’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that people under chronic stress all have chronically elevated cortisol,” Nieman says. “But if they do, do they have high risk of medical diseases? And, if so, is it the high cortisol that’s causing it? You’d need to do a study that shows that reducing cortisol also reduced the risk of disease.”

Benefits of Lowering Cortisol?

Courgi and Nieman say more research is needed before they can say for sure that lowering levels of the hormone leads to better health. Still, Courgi says the evidence on cortisol’s effect on memory is compelling.

“The knowledge we have now certainly suggests that if you can reduce stress, reduce cortisol, you can prevent memory loss,” he says, “but we need more research to prove it.”

Practice healthy habits if you want to lower cortisol, he says. Quit smoking, and ease up on alcohol. Also, “mindful meditation, which calms and relaxes you and stops the wheels from spinning, has been proved to lower cortisol levels.”

SOURCES:
Robert Courgi, MD, endocrinologist, Southside Hospital, Bay Shore, N.Y.
Lynnette Nieman, MD, senior investigator and chief, Endocrinology Consultation Service, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, MD.

source: WebMD


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Stuff You Should NEVER Cook In A Cast-Iron Pan

By LAURA SANT      FOR RODALESORGANICLIFE.COM       NOVEMBER 9, 2015

Cast-iron pans are great for cooking lots of things. Their ability to get and stay really hot makes them ideal for searing meats and cooking stir-fries, and they can go straight from stovetop to oven, which makes them perfect for baked goods like cornbread.

But the trick to great results is knowing when to use them—and when another pan might be better for the job at hand. Here are 5 things not to cook in a cast-iron skillet.

Tomato Sauce

Acidic foods like tomatoes can damage the seasoning on your skillet, which can be a headache to repair. What’s worse, the end result will taste metallic, especially if it’s something—like a slow-simmered pasta sauce—that requires a long cooking time. Skip the cast iron for your bolognese and use stainless steel instead.

Wine-Braised Meats

Likewise, it’s not the greatest idea to cook things that require deglazing with wine or vinegar; unless your skillet is perfectly seasoned, the acid can leach small amounts of metal into your food, giving it an off-taste and potentially harming your health.

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Desserts

Theoretically, lots of desserts come out very well in a cast-iron pan—it adds an appealing crisp edge to cakes and quick breads, and it can go straight from the stovetop to the oven. But if you mainly cook savory foods in your skillet, those residual flavors can transfer to whatever you’re baking, giving your dessert a savory flavor. If you have more than multiple skillets, designate one for garlicky stir-fries (or whatever) and another for the sweet stuff.

Omelets

Unless you have a truly perfectly seasoned pan (and few of us do), omelets and other egg dishes can stick to the surface when you try to remove them. That means in addition to serving an ugly omelet, you may be tempted to soak your pan to get it clean, which will definitely remove the seasoning. Go for an enamel pan instead, and those perfectly folded omelets will slide out with ease.

Delicate Fish

Like eggs, very flakey fish fillets can stick to a cast-iron pan, making them difficult to remove and necessitating a lot of hard scraping, which may also affect the seasoning on your skillet. While cast iron is great for searing a steak, thanks to how hot it gets (and stays), enamel is better for fish like tilapia, cod, and flounder.

Though your salmon and tuna steaks will probably be fine in your Lodge pan.

The article “Stuff You Should NEVER Cook In A Cast-Iron Pan” originally ran on RodalesOrganicLife.com.