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EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

99 Percent of Non-Organic Raisins Tainted With at Least Two Chemicals

Nearly 70 percent of the fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides, according to EWG’s analysis of the latest test data from the federal Department of Agriculture. But the dirtiest produce commodity, according to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, is not a fresh fruit or vegetable but a dried one – raisins.

Traditionally, EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ has included fresh fruits and vegetables only. But because the USDA tested raisins last year for the first time since 2007, we decided to see how they would fare on the Dirty Dozen, our annual ranking of the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides.

Almost every sample of non-organic raisins tested – 99 percent – had residues of at least two pesticides. On the 2020 Dirty Dozen, raisins would rank worst of all fruits tested, including strawberries, nectarines, apples and cherries, all of which had residues of two or more pesticides on at least 90 percent of samples.

As with last year’s Shopper’s Guide, kale ranks third on the 2020 Dirty Dozen list. Even as kale’s popularity as a health food rich in vitamins and antioxidants has soared in recent years, the level and type of pesticide residues on kale has expanded significantly.

In USDA’s most recent tests, the pesticide most frequently detected on kale was DCPA, sold under the brand name Dacthal. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies DCPA as a possible human carcinogen, and in 2009 the European Union banned it.

Whether organic or conventionally grown, fruits and vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet. However, many crops contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after washing, peeling or scrubbing, which the USDA does before testing each item. Since pesticide contamination varies by crop, it is important to understand which items are most or least contaminated.

Also important to note is that the USDA does not test for all pesticides used in crop production. Notably, it does not analyze glyphosate, or Roundup, the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S., but high levels can be found in several grains and beans, such as oats and chickpeas, due to its increasing use as a pre-harvest drying agent.

EWG’S DIRTY DOZEN FOR 2020

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes

Of the 47 items included in our analysis, these Dirty Dozen foods were contaminated with more pesticides than other crops, according to our analysis of USDA data.1 (The rankings are based not only on the percentage of samples with pesticides but also on the number and amount of pesticides on all samples and on individual samples. See Methodology.) Key findings:

  • More than 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.
  • Multiple samples of kale showed 18 different pesticides.
  • On average, kale and spinach samples had 1.1 to 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop tested.

EWG’S CLEAN FIFTEEN FOR 2020

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Eggplants
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Cantaloupes
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Cabbage
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi

These 15 items had the lowest amounts of pesticide residues, according to EWG’s analysis of the most recent USDA data.1  Key findings:

  • Avocados and sweet corn were the cleanest. Fewer than 2 percent of samples showed any detectable pesticides
  • With the exception of cabbage, all other products on the Clean Fifteen tested positive for four or fewer pesticides.
  • Almost 70 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had no pesticide residues.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on Clean Fifteen vegetables. Only 7 percent of Clean Fifteen fruit and vegetable samples had two or more pesticides.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF REDUCING DIETARY PESTICIDE EXPOSURE

Eating organic food reduces pesticide exposure and is linked to a variety of health benefits, according to an article published this year in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients.2 In four separate clinical trials, people who switched from conventional to organic foods saw a rapid and dramatic reduction in their urinary pesticide concentrations, a marker of pesticide exposure. Additional studies have linked higher consumption of organic foods to lower urinary pesticide levels, improved fertility and birth outcomes, reduced incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lower BMI.2,3

Researchers from Harvard University used USDA test data and methods similar to ours to classify produce as having high or low pesticides.4 Remarkably, their lists of high and low pesticide crops largely overlap with our Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.

spraying pesticides

FERTILITY STUDIES’ CLASSIFICATION OF PESTICIDE RESIDUES

High pesticide residue score

Apples, apple sauces, blueberries, grapes, green beans, leafy greens, pears, peaches, potatoes, plums, spinach, strawberries, raisins, sweet peppers, tomatoes, winter squashes

Low to moderate pesticide residue score

Apple juice, avocados, bananas, beans, broccoli, cabbages, cantaloupes, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, eggplants, grapefruits, lentils, lettuce, onions, oranges, orange juices, peas, prunes, summer squashes, sweet potatoes, tofu, tomato sauces, zucchini

These researchers also found that people who consumed greater quantities of crops high in pesticides had higher levels of urinary pesticides and lower fertility.4,5 Alternatively, people who consumed a pro-fertility diet, which included the low pesticide crops, among other foods and nutrients, like whole grains and folic acid, were more likely to have a successful pregnancy.6

From these studies, it is unclear whether the positive effects associated with organic foods are directly and exclusively caused by lower pesticide exposures.

People who consume higher amounts of organic produce tend to be more health-conscious in general, making it difficult to determine the exact cause of an observed health outcome. Clinical trials – in which participants are monitored before and after switching to an organic diet – may be better able to identify cause-and-effect links between diet and outcomes.

But so far, the clinical trials for organic foods have been short-term studies spanning days to months, although health benefits from eating organic foods may take much longer to become evident. Until long-term clinical trials are completed, the published observational studies provide the best evidence in support of eating organic.

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an important report that said children have “unique susceptibilities to [pesticide residues’] potential toxicity.” The academy cited research that linked pesticide exposures in early life to pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems. It advised its members to urge parents to consult “reliable resources that provide information on the relative pesticide content of various fruits and vegetables.” A key resource it cited was EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.7

An EWG investigation published this year found that for most pesticides, the Environmental Protection Agency does not apply additional restrictions to safeguard children’s health. The landmark 1996 Food Quality Protection Act required the EPA to protect children’s health by applying an extra margin of safety to legal limits for pesticides in food. Yet, as the EWG study found, this tenfold margin of safety was not included in the EPA’s allowable limits for almost 90 percent of the most common pesticides.

GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS

Genetically engineered crops, or GMOs, are most commonly found in processed foods rather than in fresh produce. Corn syrup and corn oil, produced from predominantly GMO starchy field corn, are commonly found in processed foods. However, you may find genetically modified zucchini, yellow squash, sweet corn, papaya and apples in U.S. markets, though only papayas are predominantly GMO.

Under a law passed in 2016, beginning in 2022, GMO food products in the U.S. must be labeled. However, based on the final rule, released in 2018 by the Trump Administration, these labels may be difficult to interpret, with confusing terms like “bioengineered.” Until the law takes effect, consumers who want to avoid GMOs may choose organic zucchini, yellow squash, sweet corn, papaya, apples and potatoes. Processed goods that are certified organic or bear Non-GMO Project Verified labels can also be trusted to be GMO-free.

EWG provides several resources – including EWG’s Shopper’s Guide To Avoiding GMO Food, the Food Scores database and EWG’s Healthy Living app – to help consumers identify foods likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients.

DIRTY DOZEN PLUS

EWG’s standard criteria do not rank peppers among the Dirty Dozen, but because they test positive for pesticides known to be toxic to the brain, we’ve included them in the Dirty Dozen Plus list.

Between 2010 and 2012, USDA tests found peppers contained acephate, chlorpyrifos and oxamyl – toxic insecticides that are banned from use on some crops but still permitted on hot peppers.

EWG recommends that consumers choose organic peppers in lieu of conventionally grown. Alternatively, if organic peppers are unavailable or too expensive, EWG suggests that you cook conventionally grown peppers before eating them, as heating food can reduce pesticide levels.8

PESTICIDE REGULATIONS

The federal government’s role in protecting our health, farm workers and the environment from harmful pesticides is in urgent need of reform. In the U.S, pesticide regulation, monitoring and enforcement is scattered across multiple federal and state agencies. In 1991 the USDA initiated the Pesticide Data Program and began testing commodities annually for pesticide residues, but we continue to be concerned about pesticide regulation in the U.S.

The USDA states that a goal of its tests is to provide data on pesticide residues in food, with a focus on those most likely consumed by infants and children. Yet there are some commodities that are not tested annually, including baby food (last tested in 2013), oats (last tested in 2014), and baby formula (last tested in 2014).

This is troubling, because tests commissioned by EWG found almost three-fourths of samples of popular oat-based foods, including many consumed by children, had pesticide residue levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health.

The chief responsibility of deciding which pesticides are approved for use in the U.S., including deciding what conditions are placed on their approval and setting the pesticide residue levels on foods and crops, falls to the EPA. But primary enforcement authority for pesticide use on farms is left to states, and the responsibility of testing foods to determine dietary exposures to pesticides is divided between the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration. However, neither the USDA nor the FDA regularly test all commodities for pesticide residues, nor do the programs test for all pesticides commonly used in agriculture.

The pesticide registration process requires companies to submit safety data, proposed uses and product labels to be approved by the EPA. However, the EPA does not conduct its own independent testing of pesticides. Neither does its review fully capture the risks posed by pesticides, because of limitations in available data and failures in risk assessments, such as excluding synergistic effects. This is concerning, because scientists have found that the combination of two or more pesticides can be more potent than the use of the pesticides individually.

The primary pesticide law – the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA – is far less health protective than the laws that protect the safety of our air, food, water and environment. There are many reasons EWG fights for pesticide regulation and reform: registration loopholes, limited public participation, outdated registration and pesticide registration backlogs, to name a few.

These are examples of the potential undermining of marketplace safety, since products with harmful health concerns can remain on the market. Not all pesticides registered under FIFRA adequately protect human health and the environment, and federal food tolerance residue levels often allow for higher exposure levels than public health advocates, including EWG, consider to be safe.

REFERENCES:

  1. USDA, Pesticide Data Program. Agricultural Marketing Service. Available at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/datasets/pdp
  2. Vigar, V., et al., A Systematic Review of Organic Versus Conventional Food Consumption: Is There a Measurable Benefit on Human Health? Nutrients, 2020; 12(1), 7. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010007. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/1/7/htm.
  3. Papadopoulou, E., et al., Diet as a Source of Exposure to Environmental Contaminants for Pregnant Women and Children from Six European Countries. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2019; 127(10). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5324. Available at: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/full/10.1289/EHP5324.
  4. Chiu, Y.H., et al., Association Between Pesticide Residue Intake from Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment With Assistance Reproductive Technology. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2018. DOI: 10.1001/amainternmed.2017.5038. Available at: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2659557
  5. Chiu, Y.H., et al. Comparison of questionnaire-based estimation of pesticide residue intake from fruits and vegetables with urinary concentrations of pesticide biomarkers. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, 2018; 28, 31-39. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2017.22. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/jes201722
  6. Gaskins A.J., et al. Dietary patterns and outcomes of assisted reproduction. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2019; 220:567.e1-18. Doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2019.02.004
  7. American Academy of Pediatrics, Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and Council on Environmental Health, 2012; e1406 -e1415. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2579. Available at https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/5/e1406
  8. Kaushik, G., et al., Food processing a tool to pesticide residue dissipation – A review. Food Research International, 2009; 42:26-40. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2008.09.009. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996908001907

By EWG Science Team    WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2020

source: www.ewg.org


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11 Habits That Can Create Positive Relationships

The definition of a habit is: “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Once formed and ingrained into your being, habits are very difficult to break. This includes habits that are practiced in your relationships – positive or negative.

Upon closer examination, it becomes evident that positive habits are a foundation of positive relationships. When bad habits are present, the relationship is challenged. On the flip side, good habits create and maintain strong, healthy relationships.

HERE ARE 11 HABITS THAT HELP CREATE POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS…

1. BEING RESPECTFUL TO EACH OTHER

Respect is one of the most important habits of positive relationships because it builds trust and shows acceptance. Showing disrespect towards your partner slowly weakens trust and creates barriers in your connection with each other.

Disagreements often lead to arguments, and arguments often lead to insults. Make sure to watch your tongue and think before allowing something to come out that could lead to negative consequences.

2. ELIMINATING DISTRACTIONS WHEN WITH YOUR PARTNER

Between work and other obligations, we don’t have enough time with each other as it is. Continuing to allow distractions to interrupt your time alone is damaging to your relationship and affects intimacy with your partner. Preoccupation with work is one of the biggest distractions, often arising when couples are trying to get closer.

There are some simple things you can do: turn off the T.V. when having dinner, leave your phones off when spending time alone, and make sure that your work is completed before heading home.

3. RESPONDING TO EACH OTHER

Are you ready for an eye-opening statistic? 86 percent of happily married couples respond to their partners bid for attention, while only 30 percent of unhappy couples do the same.

You can show your attention by doing very simple things: responding to your partner when they ask a question, or bringing something on your way home when asked. It’s really as simple as showing your attentiveness and responsiveness when something arises.

4. RECOGNIZING AND APPRECIATING QUALITIES

Create the habit of conveying positive qualities towards your partner. This really deepens the emotional connection between couples and makes the other person feel genuinely good about being them.

Showing admiration and appreciation of your partner’s positive attributes will strengthen the bond that already exists between you, while continuously bringing up the person’s shortcomings ultimately damages the relationship…sometimes irreparably.

5. STAYING CONNECTED THROUGH THE DAY

Nearly all of our lives are busy from the moment we wake up. You are probably no different. However, part of having a long, happy relationship is to show your love and affection when apart from each other.

When you make a commitment to another person, you essentially make that person the number one priority in your life. There should be nothing that allows that commitment to wane, even a hectic work schedule.

Connect with each other through the day by sending a text on your break or giving your partner a call on the way home.

6. TAKING SOME TIME APART

You may be thinking: “Wait…so how am I supposed to stay connected to my partner while being told to take time apart?” Good question. When frustrations occur in a relationship (and they will), time apart can be both healthy and productive.

The truth is that healthy couples recognize the importance of taking time apart. They recognize that this time deepens the appreciation and love for each other, while giving them some much-needed quiet time. This can be in the form of going to a movie alone, having some dinner with friends, or simply reading a book or watching some television by yourself.

7. FORGIVING SHORTCOMINGS

Personal flaws are part of being human. It’s not about finding someone that is perfect, but about finding someone who is perfect for you.

You will continually realize that the person you fell in love with has some quirks that push your buttons. To be in a healthy relationship means accepting these shortcomings, forgiving them, and loving the person anyways.

8.FREQUENT AFFECTION

Research shows that people in healthy relationships are abundantly affectionate toward each other.

Affection and being close to each other are important because it fosters connection and trust. A healthy frequency of affection allows for your bond to strengthen, ultimately creating a stronger connection with each other.

9. SURPRISING YOUR PARTNER

When you reach a certain time-frame in your relationship, the feelings of infatuation and intrigue with the other can start to weaken – this is natural. The thing that you are trying to avoid is complacency and feelings of routineness.

Spontaneity in a relationship is healthy, fun, and creates feelings of appreciation and love. These spontaneous gestures can be small or large, but should always show that you made the effort to do something special.

If you are not the most creative type (and that’s okay!) there are plenty of great ideas circulating around in cyberspace.

10. WORKING TOGETHER ON GOALS

Healthy relationships focus on having both short and long term goals. Complacency and a lack of progress in your relationship and lives together can lead to unhappiness and regret.

Instead, sit down and figure out where you want to be in the next 5, 10 or 20 years…what do you want your lives together to look like?

One important thing to remember: don’t base your goals on what others think your relationship should look like. Forget about “success” as society defines it…instead, focus on what will make you and your partner truly happy and fulfilled.

11. FINDING HUMOR IN EACH OTHER’S MISTAKES

Relationships are a serious thing, but that doesn’t mean it has to be serious all the time…even when mistakes are made. You went into a relationship with someone knowing that they will probably do something dumb once in a while…so find some ways to laugh about it together.

Just anticipate that when you do something dumb, they will probably laugh in return…hey, it will eventually be funny.

source: www.powerofpositivity.com

couple

Why The 5 Love Languages Are Still Popular, Even After 29 Years

When Gary Chapman, PhD, published the book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate in 1992, I’m not sure he intended to make such a huge impact in how we look at giving and receiving love. But nowadays, you can barely go a week without hearing about love languages. While they’re often mentioned in jest (I’m thinking about those “pasta is my love language” memes), many people credit the framework with completely changing their relationships — romantic and otherwise — for the better.

According to Dr. Chapman, there are five specific love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, physical touch, and acts of service. These “languages” refer to how people express and feel love. You might be happiest showing your love for someone by showering them with compliments, for instance, or you may feel most loved when someone spends quality time with you. (Usually, how you show love is also how you like to receive love.)

I’ve often joked that I need all five of these love languages fulfilled by my partner to be happy, and it turns out I’m not wrong. “In a balanced relationship, we’re hitting all of these things,” Moraya Seeger DeGeare, licensed marriage and family therapist and the co-owner of BFF Therapy in Beacon, NY, tells Refinery29.

Dr. Chapman’s premise is that at least some relationship discord comes from couples not speaking the same language. For example, if you experience love through quality time but your partner shows love through acts of service (like keeping the house tidy), you might end up feeling disconnected and unhappy in your relationship — they’re spending your date nights washing the dishes. So understanding each other’s love languages can go a long way to strengthening your relationship.

The five love languages aren’t inherently romantic, either. You could use your friends’ and family’s love languages to support them emotionally too.

While the love languages are a useful tool and incredibly relatable and fun to learn about — there’s a reason you hear about them so often — being able to utilize and respect them isn’t the single key that unlocks a successful and fulfilling relationship. You may be able to show love through your partner’s love language, or recognize the type of love they express, but that doesn’t mean much if your long-term values are misaligned, if they’re consistently disrespectful of you, or if you have other issues in your partnership.

But since knowing how you tend to show and receive love can come in handy in all your relationships, DeGeare says it’s worth taking the actual love language quiz online. Encourage your partner, closest friend, or family to take the quiz, too — it can be fun to do it together, then discuss your results. And knowing your loved ones’ languages can help put into context why they never seem thrilled to receive gifts from you (maybe their primary love language is physical touch) or they’re always gassing you up (their language may be words of affirmation). For a little more context on what each love language means, though, check out this brief overview.

Words of Affirmation

DeGeare says that people with this love language value verbal encouragement, and like having people tell them very explicitly what they’re doing that they appreciate or notice. So if getting a text from your partner before a big meeting or presentation wishing you luck makes your entire day, this might be you. If you know someone with this love language, here’s a tip: Just telling this person you love them often won’t cut it. It’s all about being intentional, and offering up affirmations that are “very much in tune with what’s going on with them,” DeGeare says.

Quality Time

Those who value quality time really appreciate hanging out with their partner (or friend!) one on one. “The important thing here is uninterrupted time,” DeGeare explains. “Put down your phone, and really dial into the person.” If you “speak” this language, you know: Spending time with someone who’s completely distracted doesn’t feel fulfilling. But as long as your loved one is present, it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing. Even just going for walks together can go a long way here.

Receiving Gifts

If your love language is receiving gifts, you enjoy getting thoughtful presents from your partner. DeGeare points out that this love language often gets a bad rap for being “materialistic,” but the gifts don’t actually have to be as grand as a diamond necklace or an all-expenses paid trip to Italy (although, I’m sure few people would turn those down). “This is very much about being really thoughtful,” DeGeare says. “It’s less about the money side of receiving gifts, but really knowing the person and giving a gift that says, ‘I know you and I see you, and this is a real need for you.'” For example, you could run to your partner’s favorite doughnut shop when they’re having a rough day to grab them a treat, or even buy them a new aux cord for their car if they haven’t gotten around to replacing their old, broken one yet.

Physical Touch

Physical touch is a pretty straightforward love language. Someone who’s love language is touch really values holding hands, snuggling close on the couch, kissing, getting their backs scratched, and just being physically close. It’s not inherently sexual touches, it’s more just the closeness and feeling the full physical connection, DeGeare says. This love language is when someone wants physical intimacy to be a main priority, and you can show it just by consciously making an effort to create closeness with your partner.

Acts of Service

Showing love through acts of service is when you take something off of someone’s plate to make their life easier. It’s “being mindful of all the things that need to be done, and doing something for that person,” DeGeare says. A few examples might be emptying the dishwasher for your partner, taking their car to get an oil change, or shoveling out their walkway after a snowstorm. Even just doing chores together can be a great way to utilize this love language and show your partner that you appreciate them.

ELIZABETH GULINO    FEBRUARY 18, 2021

source: www.refinery29.com

Couple-Laughing

4 Signs You Are In A Committed Relationship

Look for these signs of a successful relationship

Being ‘ready for commitment’ is a clear sign of relationship success, new research finds.

Being ready for commitment makes people do the work required to keep a relationship going.

Those who are ‘commitment ready’ are 25% less likely to break up over time.

Some common signs of commitment include:

  1. Your partner makes sacrifices for you, such as changing their schedule, doing thing you like but they don’t and really listening to your problems.
  2. Making long-term plans for the future that include you both.
  3. You both have similar perceptions about the relationship, as do your friends and family.
  4. Real commitments are things that you do. Commitment is usually obvious — watch their behaviour.

Professor Chris Agnew, the study’s first author, said:

“Feeling ready leads to better relational outcomes and well-being.

When a person feels more ready, this tends to amplify the effect of psychological commitment on relationship maintenance and stability.”

The conclusions come from a study of over 400 adults in relationships.

All were asked about their sense of whether this was the right time for a relationship, how satisfied they were with it and how much investment they had made.

The results showed that readiness was strongly linked to commitment.

In other words, people tended to commit to a relationship when they felt ready for it.

However, when they didn’t feel ready, they did not do the work required to keep the relationship alive.

Professor Agnew said:

“People’s life history, relationship history, and personal preferences all play a role.

One’s culture also transmits messages that may signal that one is more or less ready to commit.”

The study will be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (Agnew et al., 2019).

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. 

source: PsyBlog


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How To Create A Morning Routine That Reduces Anxiety And Stress

The self-care rituals you practice in the morning
can improve your mental health for the rest of the day.

As a person who’s dealt with anxiety since I was a kid, I find that I’m often most anxious first thing in the morning. When I open my eyes, all of the worries and potential stressors that await me flood my mind. The pit in my stomach makes me want to stay in bed as long as I can so I don’t have to face the day ahead.

Of course, this avoidance only exacerbates what I’m feeling. What alleviates it is just the opposite: Getting up on the earlier side so I have time for my morning routine. These days, that’s making an iced coffee, taking my dog for a walk, following a short workout video, writing my to-do list for the day and ― when time permits ― meditating and journaling.

“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day,” Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and well-being consultant in Britain, told HuffPost. “A worry-filled morning will often flood into an anxious afternoon.” Conversely, starting the morning with intention creates a sense of calm and confidence that makes the rest of the day seem more manageable.

So how do you create those morning rituals that will quiet your racing mind and stick with them? Below, experts offer some helpful advice.

How to start a solid morning routine

Be realistic about how much you can dedicate to your morning routine. 

Consider how much time you can realistically carve out for yourself.

“We all have a period of the morning that we have some level of control over,” Chambers said. “For some people, that may be an hour, for others, it may be 20 minutes.”

For example, if you have young kids or a long commute to the office, you may have less time to work with. So figure out what’s realistic for your circumstances.

Waking up earlier may help your mornings feel less frazzled. That said, you shouldn’t force yourself into becoming an early riser at the expense of getting a full night’s rest. Remember that sleep plays a pivotal role in your emotional regulation.

“Often we hear of routines that start in the early hours of the morning,” Chambers said. “For some people, this is a high-energy time and a perfect time to start your routine. But if you’re limiting your sleep or you just don’t function well so early, it is going to be detrimental.”

Experiment to figure out which rituals work best for you.

Finding out which morning routine additions alleviate your anxiety may take some trial and error. What works for your partner, friend or that random influencer you follow on Instagram may or may not work for you.

“Think about your biggest stressors and problems that trigger your anxiety, and then consider what really helps in these situations,” Chambers said. “Then look to those activities and experiment. There are many ways and methods to exercise, plan, journal, listen and read, and some will feel just right for you.”

Make it easy and enjoyable so you stick with it.

You don’t need to come up with some elaborate 20-step process to reap the benefits of a morning routine (but, hey, if you want to, more power to you).

“Morning routines are most effective when we enjoy them and they are easy to integrate into our lives,” Chambers said. “They are not about completely changing what we do, but adding small, positive changes that compound together.”

“Morning routines are most effective when we enjoy them and they are easy to integrate into our lives.”

– LEE CHAMBERS, ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND WELL-BEING CONSULTANT

One way to make the morning smoother? Do some preparation the night before, like laying out your workout clothes, whipping up a make-ahead breakfast or putting your journal by your coffeemaker.

“Leave things to trigger you to remember, make what you need accessible and craft a space where it is possible,” Chambers said.

But know that you’re not going to execute your routine perfectly every day ― and that’s OK.

You might be on a roll for a couple of weeks and then fall off for a few days. If you mentally prepare for these hiccups, you’ll be less likely to beat yourself up when they happen.

“It’s easy to move into judgment and criticism of yourself when things don’t go as you would have wanted or when you don’t immediately want to jump out of bed in the morning to start a new routine,” said marriage and family therapist Lynsie Seely of Wellspace SF in San Francisco. “Expect that there will be difficult moments and connect with your internal voice that offers kind words and encouragement along the way.”

And when you do follow your routine, give yourself some praise.

“Celebrate a little,” Chambers said. “Similarly, when you miss it, be kind to yourself and get prepared for the following morning.”

Some habits worth trying to incorporate into your morning

Here are some expert-recommend practices to reduce anxiety. Experiment to see what works well for you and then narrow it down. 

We asked mental health professionals to recommend some practices that help soothe anxiety. Try out a few of these and check in with how you feel afterwards — but know that it may take some time to see the benefits. Then you can determine if you want to add any to your a.m. routine.

1. Start your day by drinking water.

Before you have your tea or coffee, hydrate with a glass of a water as soon as you wake up.

“It gives us increased cognitive function, allowing us more clarity of mind, can elevate our mood and energy, and promotes more balanced emotional regulation and takes less than a minute,” Chambers said. “And it’s a great habit to stack your next part of the routine into, and you can even prepare your water the evening before.”

2. Walk outside.

Taking a walk outdoors is a calming, grounding way to begin the day.

“It is also great as it gets sunlight into our eyes, stimulating serotonin, which boosts our mood,” Chambers said. “It also ignites our senses, as the wind hits our face, sounds of the environment fill our ears and we smell the external world. It makes us mindful and eases our worries in the process.”

3. Practice gratitude.

Take a moment to reflect on all of the good in your life. You can list a few things in your head, share them with a partner or child, or write them down in a journal.

“Start your day with a grateful heart before you even get up from bed,” said Renato Perez, a Los Angeles psychotherapist. “Start naming all the things you’re grateful for. This could be done through prayer or simply a list you say out loud to the universe or Mother Nature.”

4. Try to avoid checking your phone first thing.

Those work emails, text messages, Instagram notifications and news alerts can wait a bit. If you charge your phone by your bed or use it as an alarm clock, you’re going to look at it right when you wake up. Before you know it, you’re sucked in and two minutes of scrolling turns into 20. Try charging your phone across the room so it’s not within reach. Or charge it outside of the bedroom and use an alarm clock instead.

“I see so many people who immediately check their work email in the morning, which automatically puts them in ‘work mode’ and makes them feel anxious about the day ahead before they even get out of bed,” said Gina Delucca, a clinical psychologist at Wellspace SF. “Similarly, some people hop on social media or start reading news articles while lying in bed, which may trigger anxiety by reading or seeing something negative or scary.”

That doesn’t mean you have to avoid your phone altogether, which just isn’t realistic for most of us. “But I definitely recommend giving yourself some peace and quiet in the morning before the daily grind begins,” Delucca added.

5. Take some deep breaths.

When you’re anxious, you might notice your breathing is quick and shallow, rather than slow and deep.

“This is a part of our body’s natural stress response, and it coincides with a few of the other physical sensations you may notice when you feel anxious — like rapid heart rate, dizziness and upset stomach,” Delucca said. “While we don’t have voluntary control over some of these bodily sensations, we do have control over our breathing, and we can use our breath to help induce a more relaxed state.”

“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day.”

– LEE CHAMBERS, ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND WELL-BEING CONSULTANT

Those deep, nourishing inhalations and exhalations stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, producing a sense of calm.

“To begin, try to spend a few minutes each morning sitting or lying in a comfortable position, closing your eyes and taking a few slow, controlled, deep breaths,” Delucca said. “Try breathing in through your nose and then breathing out through either your nose or mouth. When you inhale, imagine that you are filling up a balloon in your abdomen rather than just breathing into your chest.”

6. Meditate.

“There is no better way to quiet the mind than by practicing meditation,” Perez said. “Start small — two to three minutes — and increment every week.”

When your mind wanders away, which it inevitably will, gently bring it back to your breath.

You can sit in silence, listen to relaxing music, do a guided mediation through an app like Calm, Headspace or Insight Timer, or find one on YouTube

You can also try repeating a mantra — “I am safe, and I will be OK,” is one Delucca suggested. Or do a body scan: Start at the top of your head, bringing awareness to each body part and releasing tension from that area as you slowly work your way down to your toes.

7. Eat a nourishing breakfast.

“Our mood is highly influenced by what we eat,” Chambers said.

Opt for a balanced breakfast that contains protein, healthful fats, fiber and complex carbohydrates — think a vegetable omelet with avocado toast or oatmeal with nut butter, berries and chia seeds. Refined carbohydrates, such as doughnuts and sugary cereals, can lead to a blood sugar spike and crash, “causing challenges with emotional regulation, which may leave you feeling anxious,” Chambers added. (That said, if the occasional croissant or chocolate chip muffin brings some joy to your morning, it’s totally fine. Food is meant to be enjoyed, after all.)

8. Read a few pages from a book.

Rather than reading news or catching up on your social media feeds early in the morning, Perez recommends picking up a book that inspires you and reading for a few minutes ― even just five pages.

“Find a book that really speaks to you and makes you feel good,” he said.

9. Move your body.

It could be yoga, walking, running, dancing, cycling, strength-training or even stretching.

“When you exercise in the morning, you may notice improved focus and energy during the rest of the day, as well as better sleep at night, which can also help to tame anxiety,” Delucca said. “In addition, exercising in the morning can enhance your mood by giving you a boost of endorphins and a sense of accomplishment at the start of your day.”

It’s worth noting that some people report that certain workouts, especially very intense ones, actually stoke their anxiety rather than reduce it. So just be aware of that.

“We react differently to exercise, and it is a stressor,” Chambers said. “Exercising with too much intensity for some people can lead them to become fatigued and more likely to feel anxious.”

10. Do some visualization.

A visualization practice can help you set the desired tone for your day. If you’re feeling anxious and distracted, perhaps you’d like to feel calm, focused and empowered instead. Seely recommends calling on a memory that evokes that feeling for you. Tune into the small details and sensations of the experience.

“For example, if I’m visualizing a memory where I hiked up to the peak of a mountain and I’m overlooking the summit, I might notice the details of the incredible view, the sounds of nature around me, the feel of my muscles after climbing the steep terrain, the smell and temperature of the air, the sensation of feeling accomplished, proud, unstoppable,” she said. “Really getting into every sensation of the memory helps your body to soak in the experience and primes your physiology for that particular state of being ― in this example, empowered and ready to take on the day.”

And if you can’t think of a specific memory, allow yourself to daydream and build the desired experience in your imagination.

How to stick to your morning routine

“You’re more likely to follow through on behavior change when you set clear and specific goals versus vague aspirations,” said psychologist Gina Delucca. 

You may think your biggest stumbling blocks are a lack of willpower or hitting the snooze button half a dozen times. But often it “comes down to a lack of clarity with the routine,” Delucca said.

“You’re more likely to follow through on behavior change when you set clear and specific goals versus vague aspirations,” she added.

So instead of saying something general, like, “I want to work out in the morning,” make the goal more concrete: “I’m going to do a virtual yoga class at 7:30 a.m. after I finish my tea.”

Delucca also recommends getting up around the same time each day and outlining what specific activities you want to incorporate into your routine and in what order. It may help to write them down.

“When you do something repeatedly in the same order, you can eventually develop a habit,” Delucca said. “When a habit is formed, you’re not solely relying on how you feel in the moment in terms of your mood, motivation or willpower. Habits feel automatic without any guesswork as to what you should do next.”

She offered the example of taking a shower. You likely shampoo, condition, shave and wash your body in a specific order without giving it much thought.

“It’s automatic because the routine is clear and you’ve created a habit in which one action flows directly into the next action without any questioning,” Delucca said. “So, try to be as specific and consistent as possible when creating a morning routine. Each activity will serve as a cue for the next, and with time, your morning routine will flow.”

Kelsey Borresen – Senior Reporter, HuffPost Life        09/16/2020 

source:  www.huffingtonpost.ca

 

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5 Habits You Should Avoid
First Thing In The Morning

Don’t make these mistakes when you wake up.
Here’s what to avoid in your a.m. routine and what to do instead.
 
A few simple changes to your morning habits
can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
 
A good morning routine is a foundational part of self-care, affecting everything from your energy levels and productivity to the state of your skin.
 
But it is easy to fall into less-than-ideal habits without even realizing it ― particularly during a global pandemic when we are collectively coping with much bigger issues and routines have long gone out the window.
 
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get back on track. We asked experts for some of the most common morning routine mistakes and easy fixes to try instead.
 

Mistake #1: Hitting The Snooze Button

More than half of Americans say they hit the snooze button daily, so know that if you do too, you’re in good company. Also, it’s really not your fault. Growing research suggests that workdays and school days start too early, causing millions of kids and adults to lose out on the hours of sleep their brains and bodies need. So trying to sneak in a few last-minute ZZZs might seem like your only recourse. But alas, it doesn’t work.
 
“It’s so tempting to keep hitting snooze,” said Niket Sonpal, a New York City-based internist and faculty member with the Touro College of Medicine. “But it’s not beneficial.”
 
That’s because the extra minutes you eke out at that point aren’t actually restorative, even if they feel good at the time.
 
Plus, you could be disrupting the longer periods of REM sleep that tend to happen early in the morning. And frequent interruptions to the natural sleep cycle have been linked to range of both mental effects (like cognitive issues and depression) as well as physical ones (like metabolic problems).
 
“If you want some extra time in the morning, a better idea would be to set your clock ahead 15 minutes and wake up the minute it goes off,” Sonpal said. “If you have to set a really annoying alarm tone, then do so.”
 

Mistake #2: Letting Your Mind Be ‘Directed’ By Your Phone

Another big morning mistake people make is reaching for their phones while they’re still under the covers, said Naomi Parrella, a primary care physician with Rush University Medical Group.
 
If the very first thing you do in the morning is check email, look at social media or scan the day’s headlines, you’re essentially letting things outside of your control “hijack” your very first thoughts and feelings, Parrella said.
 
You’re giving your mind “inputs that are effectively somebody else deciding for you what goes in your brain,” she said. And she is worried that people have become almost “addicted” to the up-and-down news cycle.
 
So now is the time to be diligent about boundaries. It’s OK if you reach for your phone first thing in the morning because it’s your alarm; it’s not great if you’re picking it up to immediately connect to the outside world.
 
Take a few deep breaths instead. Do some stretches. Say “hi” to your partner or kids. Drink some water.
 
Set boundaries with your devices by not doomscrolling when you first get up.
 

Mistake #3: Filling Up On Sugar Right Away

“Sugar and super, ultra-processed breakfast foods cause a hormonal shift in the body,” Parrella said. “Now you’re going to be on this roller coaster of being hungry, being moody, possibly having a sugar crash.”
 
The average North American consumes 77 grams of sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association, which is about three times the recommended daily amount for women. (The recommended amount is slightly higher for men.) And experts tend to warn that breakfast is the most problematic meal of the day when it comes to added sugar thanks to common offerings like sweetened coffee and tea, cereals, syrup, breakfast bars, sugary smoothies and yogurts, and on and on.
 
So what does “too much” actually mean? Public health guidelines are a good starting point, but Parrella doesn’t like to be too prescriptive or harsh. Basically, the more sugar you can cut out of your morning routine, the better.
 
“If you want to really start the day strong and solid and anchored, it’s really helpful if you can cut out the sugar completely,” she urged — but that’s not necessary.
 
Sugar isn’t the devil, it’s just recommended that you choose wisely when to enjoy it. And if you do have a sugar-heavy morning, try incorporating some movement into your routine right after.
 
“You might go for a little walk, you might do some sun salutations or a few yoga moves, but the worst would be to go from [eating sugar] to sitting at your chair or in the car for hours on end,” Parrella said.
 

Mistake #4: Not Washing Your face Properly Or Using SPF

One morning mishap that really bothers some skin care experts? Not washing your face because you did it the night before, said Stacy Chimento, a Miami-based dermatologist with Riverchase Dermatology.
 
There is a chance your skin can pick up yucky stuff at night, like dead skin cells that collect on your pillowcase or dust that might be circulating in your sleep space while you get those ZZZs. (One stomach-churning investigation suggested that our pillows have as many microbes as our toilet seats.)
 
We must note that this tip is a little contentious: Some dermatologists say it’s not strictly necessary to wash your face with products in the morning if you’ve done a thorough job the night before. Using soap or cleansers multiple times might dry out your skin.
 
If you do go that route, take note of the water temp. “Although it might be tempting to wash your face with very cold water to wake yourself up, the temperature of the water should not be extreme,” Chimento said. “Wash with lukewarm water. Most people are rushing in the morning. Take care not to tug at your skin or be overzealous if you are exfoliating your face.”
 
Whatever you choose, make sure to slather on plenty of SPF. “You need at least a teaspoon to cover your whole face,” Chimento said — as well as your neck and chest.
 

Mistake #5: Completely Overlooking Your Mental Well-Being

The mornings can be rough: You’re tired, you’re often rushing or balancing walking pets, getting kids out the door and catching up on last-minute deadlines.
 
However, “if you don’t start the day right, you can spend the next few hours trying to work your way out of a ‘funk,’” Sonpal said — and she urges everyone to make sure they find even a few moments to tend to their well-being.
 
The strategies you use can be quite simple. “Open the blinds or shades wherever you can in your home to let in natural light,” Sonpal said. Then find a few moments to stretch, to meditate, to write in a gratitude journal or just connect, in a positive way, with a loved one.
 
One recent research paper that offered brief, actionable steps people can take every day to boost well-being pointed to the potential benefits of just taking a few deep breaths or spending a few moments focusing on the qualities you admire about a friend or loved one. Those kinds of quick and easy exercises can set you up for the day and train your brain over time.
 
“Not everyone is a ‘morning person,’” Sonpal said. But “if you establish the right routine, you can help yourself to function better.”
 
 
Catherine Pearson   02/10/2021
 
 


1 Comment

Environmental Groups Applaud Loblaw’s Commitment to Phase Out Receipts With Phenol

Loblaw Companies Ltd. is winning praise from a coalition of environmental, health and labour groups for its commitment to stop using receipt paper that contains a potentially dangerous chemical.

The grocery and drugstore chain confirmed Tuesday its plan to transition to phenol-free receipt paper across all its divisions by the end of 2021.

The move was applauded by groups that said it will help protect workers and customers from harmful chemicals.

It also renewed pressure on other Canadian retailers to phase out the chemical.

“Loblaw’s actions are the latest example of a growing trend among top North American retailers,” said Mike Schade, director of the Mind the Store campaign, which pushes large retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals from their products and operations.

“Sobeys, Metro, and other Canadian retailers should step up and join Loblaw in banning toxic chemicals in their receipts,“ he said in a statement.

In 2019, the Toronto-based environmental group Environmental Defence released research that showed cashiers may be exposed to hormone-disrupting chemicals found on receipt paper.

The findings prompted a coalition of groups to launch a call-to-action urging Canada’s top retail giants to stop using bisphenol-coated receipt paper.

“Grocery store cashiers who are exposed to high levels of hormone-disrupting (bisphenol A) and (bisphenol S) from handling receipts deserve to be protected,“ Muhannad Malas, toxics program manager at Environmental Defence, said in a statement.

The Canadian government declared bisphenol A (BPA) a toxic chemical in October 2010. Some retailers removed BPA-coated receipt paper, but replaced it with paper that contains similar phenol substances, according to the groups.

In January 2020, Costco Canada became the first Canadian-based grocery retailer to phase out bisphenol-coated receipt paper, the coalition of health, labour and environmental groups said Tuesday.

Last spring, Loblaw said in its Corporate Social Responsibility report that it plans to transition to phenol-free receipt paper by the end of 2021.

“Loblaw’s commitment to phase out all phenols in their thermal paper used for receipts by the end of 2021 is excellent news for women’s health, and we applaud the company for this initiative,” Jennifer Beeman, executive director of Breast Cancer Action Quebec said in a statement.

“Bisphenols used in thermal paper are known endocrine disruptors and can be a significant source of exposure for women – many of whom keep their receipts – as well as the women, particularly teens and young women, working as cashiers.“

She said bisphenol exposures can disrupt normal breast development and health and cause other types of health problems.

Loblaw includes stores under the banners Loblaws, Zehrs, Your Independent Grocer, Real Atlantic Superstore and Provigo, as well as its discount division, which includes No Frills and Maxi.

The company also has a network of Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix drugstores.

The Canadian Press        Tue., Jan. 26, 2021

source: www.thestar.com

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

related : Receipt-handling may boost cashiers’ exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals: study

receipt

Most Plastic Products Contain Potentially Toxic Chemicals, Study Reveals

From yogurt containers to bath mats, stuff you use every day may come with hidden risks. Here are tips to minimize exposure.

Most of the plastics that consumers encounter in daily life—including plastic wrap, bath mats, yogurt containers, and coffee cup lids—contain potentially toxic chemicals, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The researchers behind the study analyzed 34 everyday plastic products made of eight types of plastic to see how common toxicity might be. Seventy-four percent of the products they tested were toxic in some way.

The team was hoping to be able “to tell people which plastic types to use and which not [to use],” says Martin Wagner, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of biology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and senior author of the new study. “But it was more complicated than that.” Instead of pointing to a few problematic types of plastic that should be avoided, the testing instead revealed that issues of toxicity were widespread—and could be found in nearly any type of plastic.

The results help illustrate just how little we know about the wide variety of chemicals in commonly used plastics, says Wagner.

To be clear, the plastics found to have some form of toxicity aren’t necessarily harmful to human health. The researchers tested the chemicals in ways that are very different from how most people come into contact with them. Extracting compounds from plastic and exposing them directly to various cells does not mimic the exposure you get when you drink from a refillable plastic water bottle, for example.

But the results do call into question the assumption that plastic products are safe until proved otherwise, says Wagner.

“Every type of plastic contains unknown chemicals,” and many of those chemicals may well be unsafe, says Jane Muncke, Ph.D., an environmental toxicologist who is the managing director and chief scientific officer for the nonprofit Food Packaging Forum, which works to strengthen understanding of the chemicals that come into contact with food.

Here’s what the study found, what we know about how plastic could be affecting human health, and what you can do to reduce your exposure to some of the chemicals that researchers are concerned about.

What the Study Found

The 34 products tested were made from seven plastics with the biggest market share (including polypropylene and PVC), plus an eighth type of plastic—biobased, biodegradable PLA—that doesn’t yet have a huge market share but is often sold as more sustainable and “better,” according to Wagner.

Because there are millions of plastic products available, this study is not fully representative of the entire market, but it included a sampling of commonly used products made from the most widely used plastics.

The researchers detected more than 1,000 chemicals in these plastics, 80 percent of which were unknown. But the study was designed in part to show that it’s possible to assess the toxicity of plastic consumer products directly, even without knowing exactly which chemicals are present, Wagner says.

In the lab, the team checked to see if the plastics were toxic in a variety of ways, including testing for components that acted as endocrine disruptors, chemicals that can mimic hormones. (Elevated exposure to endocrine disruptors has been linked to a variety of health problems in humans, including various cancers, reduced fertility, and problems with the development of reproductive organs.) Almost three-quarters of the tested plastics displayed some form of toxicity.

Despite the large proportion of products that displayed a form of toxicity, Wagner says it’s important to note that some products didn’t show any signs of toxicity, meaning that many companies may already have access to safer forms of plastic.

It’s not yet clear from this work that any type of plastic can be consistently made in a nontoxic way; every type of plastic tested in this study sometimes displayed toxicity. That could happen due to chemicals added to the base plastic for color or flexibility, because of impurities in ingredients, or because of new chemicals that emerge in the manufacturing process.

By evaluating consumer products themselves and all the chemicals they contain, this study takes a very comprehensive approach to measuring plastic toxicity, according to Laura Vandenberg, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, who was not involved in the study. That’s because it’s testing plastics as people encounter them, not just by isolating individual chemicals.

The fact that plastics are made of mixtures of thousands of chemicals is important, says Muncke, who was also not involved in the new study. That’s because a combination of chemicals can make a product more or less risky. Individual levels of one concerning chemical, like BPA, might be below the threshold of concern. But if other chemicals that raise similar concerns are present, they could combine to create a hazardous effect.

cans

The Health Effects of Plastic

Most people don’t understand how little we know about the safety of the chemicals found in plastic, Muncke says.

But in recent years, consumers and public health experts alike have increasingly expressed concern about the potential health effects of our ongoing exposure to ordinary, everyday plastics and to the microplastics that people are inadvertently exposed to through food, water, and the air.

“We’ve surrounded ourselves with plastic. The stuff has been used to package foods for the last 40 years; it’s everywhere,” says Muncke. “It’s fair that the average citizen would say, ‘Well, if it wasn’t safe, it wouldn’t be on supermarket shelves.’ ”

In practice, however, “it’s actually not really well understood,” she says, and “we are still using known hazardous chemicals to make plastic packaging that leach into food.”

Some of the best-known examples include BPA, found in plastic water bottles, plastic storage containers, thermal paper receipts, and the lining of food cans; and phthalates, found in many products and often used to make PVC plastics (such as imitation leather and some shower curtains) more flexible, says Vandenberg.

In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report saying that some chemicals in plastic, including bisphenols (such as BPA) and phthalates, may put children’s health at risk, and recommended that families reduce exposure to them.

Studies in humans link BPA to metabolic disease, obesity, infertility, and disorders like ADHD, Vandenberg says. Studies in animals have also linked BPA to prostate and mammary cancer, as well as brain development problems. Phthalates are known to affect hormones, she says, which means they can alter the development of reproductive organs and alter sperm count in males.

“You’re not going to just drop dead [from hormonal activity in plastics], but it could contribute to diseases that may manifest over decades, or it could affect unborn embryos and fetuses,” Vandenberg says.

And there are many more chemicals that we know far less about, as this latest study showed. Sometimes, when chemicals associated with known problems (like phthalates) are phased out, we later discover that the replacement chemicals cause similar problems, something Vandenberg describes as “chemical whack-a-mole.”

Because there are so many unknowns, we should take a more precautionary approach to deciding whether or not a plastic is safe, Wagner argues. Instead of taking something off the market after it has been proved to be unsafe, manufacturers could test for toxicity before products are sold. “Better to be safe now than to be sorry in 10 or 15 years,” he says.

6 Tips for Cutting Back on Plastic

Totally avoiding plastic is almost impossible, but it’s possible to reduce your exposure to concerning chemicals found in these products.

  1. Eat fresh food. The more processed your food is, the more it may have come into contact with materials that could potentially leach concerning chemicals, says Muncke.
  2. Don’t buy into “bioplastic” hype. Green or biodegradable plastic sounds great, but so far it doesn’t live up to the hype, Wagner says. Most data indicate that these products aren’t as biodegradable as their marketing would imply, he says. Plus, this latest study showed that these products (such as biobased, biodegradable PLA) can have high rates of toxicity, he says.
  3. Don’t use plastics that we know are problematic. But don’t assume that all other products are inherently safe,either. The American Academy of Pediatrics has previously noted that the recycling codes “3,” “6,” and “7” indicate the presence of phthalates, styrene, and bisphenols, respectively—so you may want to avoid using containers that have those numbers in the recycling symbol on the bottom. Wagner adds that “3” and “7” also indicate PVC and PUR plastics, respectively, which his study found contained the most toxicity. But products made from other types of plastic contained toxic chemicals, too, which means that reducing your plastic use overall is probably the best way to avoid exposure.
  4. Don’t store your food in plastic. Food containers can contain chemicals that leach into food. This is especially true for foods that are greasy or fatty, according to Muncke, and foods that are highly acidic or alkaline, according to Vandenberg. Opt for inert stainless steel, glass, or ceramic containers.
  5. Don’t heat up plastic. Heating up plastics can increase the rate through which chemicals leach out, so try to avoid putting them in the microwave or dishwasher. Even leaving plastic containers out in a hot car could increase the release of concerning chemicals, says Vandenberg.
  6. Vote with your wallet. Try to buy products that aren’t packaged in plastic in the first place, says Vandenberg. “We need to make manufacturers aware that there is a problem,” she says. “There are products that could provide the benefits we need to make the food chain safer.”

By Kevin Loria    October 02, 2019

source: www.consumerreports.org

non stick

The Facts About Bisphenol A

In 2008, the possible health risks of Bisphenol A (BPA) – a common chemical in plastic – made headlines. Parents were alarmed, pediatricians flooded with questions, and stores quickly sold-out of BPA-free bottles and sippy cups.

Where do things stand now? Have plastic manufacturers changed their practices? How careful does a parent need to be when it comes to plastics and BPA? Here’s the latest information we have about possible BPA risks.

BPA Basics

BPA is a chemical that has been used to harden plastics for more than 40 years. It’s everywhere. It’s in medical devices, compact discs, dental sealants, water bottles, the lining of canned foods and drinks, and many other products.

More than 90% of us have BPA in our bodies right now. We get most of it by eating foods that have been in containers made with BPA. It’s also possible to pick up BPA through air, dust, and water.

BPA was common in baby bottles, sippy cups, baby formula cans, and other products for babies and young children. Controversy changed that. Now, the six major companies that make baby bottles and cups for infants have stopped using BPA in the products they sell in the U.S. Many manufacturers of infant formula have stopped using BPA in their cans, as well.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, toys generally don’t contain BPA. While the hard outer shields of some pacifiers do have BPA, the nipple that the baby sucks on does not.

BPA Risks

What does BPA do to us? We still don’t really know, since we don’t have definitive studies of its effects in people yet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration used to say that BPA was safe. But in 2010 the agency altered its position. The FDA maintains that studies using standardized toxicity tests have shown BPA to be safe at the current low levels of human exposure. But based on other evidence – largely from animal studies – the FDA expressed “some concern” about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate glands in fetuses, infants, and young children.

How could BPA affect the body? Here are some areas of concern.

Hormone levels. Some experts believe that BPA could theoretically act like a hormone in the body, disrupting normal hormone levels and development in fetuses, babies, and children. Animal studies have had mixed results.

Brain and behavior problems. After a review of the evidence, the National Toxicology Program at the FDA expressed concern about BPA’s possible effects on the brain and behavior of infants and young children.

Cancer. Some animal studies have shown a possible link between BPA exposure and a later increased risk of cancer.

Heart problems. Two studies have found that adults with the highest levels of BPA in their bodies seem to have a higher incidence of heart problems. However, the higher incidence could be unrelated to BPA.

Other conditions. Some experts have looked into a connection between BPA exposure and many conditions – obesity, diabetes, ADHD, and others. The evidence isn’t strong enough to show a link.

Increased risk to children. Some studies suggest that possible effects from BPA could be most pronounced in infants and young children. Their bodies are still developing and they are less efficient at eliminating substances from their systems.

Although this list of possible BPA risks is frightening, keep in mind that nothing has been established. The concern about BPA risks stems primarily from studies in animals.

A few studies in people have found a correlation between BPA and a higher incidence of certain health problems, but no direct evidence that BPA caused the problem. Other studies contradict some of these results. Some experts doubt that BPA poses a health risk at the doses most people are exposed to.

BPA: Governmental Action

The federal government is now funding new research into BPA risks. We don’t know the results of these studies yet. Recommendations about BPA could change in the next few years.

For now, there are no restrictions on the use of BPA in products. The Food and Drug Administration does recommend taking “reasonable steps” to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply. The FDA has also expressed support for manufacturers who have stopped using BPA in products for babies and for companies working to develop alternatives to the BPA in canned foods.

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A number of states have taken action. Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Vermont have laws restricting or banning the sale of certain products containing BPA, like bottles and sippy cups. So have cities like Chicago and Albany, as well as a few counties in New York. Similar laws are likely to pass in New York and California, and state legislatures are considering restrictions in many other states.

BPA Risks: What Can Parents Do?

Although the evidence is not certain, the FDA does recommend taking precautions against BPA exposure.

Trying to eliminate BPA from your child’s life is probably impossible. But limiting your child’s exposure – and your own – is possible. It doesn’t even have to be hard. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Find products that are BPA-free. It isn’t as hard as it once was. Many brands of bottles, sippy cups, and other tableware prominently advertise that they are BPA-free.

Look for infant formula that is BPA-free. Many brands no longer contain BPA in the can. If a brand does have BPA in the lining, some experts recommend powdered formula over liquid. Liquid is more likely to absorb BPA from the lining.

Choose non-plastic containers for food. Containers made of glass, porcelain, or stainless steel do not contain BPA.

Do not heat plastic that could contain BPA. Never use plastic in the microwave, since heat can cause BPA to leach out. For the same reason, never pour boiling water into a plastic bottle when making formula. Hand-wash plastic bottles, cups, and plates.

Throw out any plastic products – like bottles or sippy cups – that are chipped or cracked. They can harbor germs. If they also have BPA, it’s more likely to leach into food.

Use fewer canned foods and more fresh or frozen. Many canned foods still contain BPA in their linings.

Avoid plastics with a 3 or a 7 recycle code on the bottom. These plastics might contain BPA. Other types of numbered plastic are much less likely to have BPA in them.

WebMD Medical Reference  Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 10, 2019

Sources 

Harvey Karp, MD, pediatrician, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block; assistant professor of pediatrics, UCLA School of Medicine.

American Nurses Association.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Environmental Working Group.

Food and Drug Administration.

George Mason University’s Statistical Assessment Service (STATS.)

Healthy Child Healthy World.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Ryan, B. Toxicological Sciences, March 2010.

Sharpe, R. Toxicological Sciences, March 2010.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

source: WebMD


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The Weight Loss Diet That Automatically Stops Overeating

Unlike the Western diet, this diet naturally puts you off overeating.
No matter how much you like to eat, a Mediterranean-style diet can protect you from overeating.
According to a study, a Mediterranean diet stops the feeling of hunger and over-consumption, unlike the Western diet that causes prediabetes, obesity, and liver disease.
However, a Mediterranean diet can have similar amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and protein to other types of diets because what we eat is important.
Generally, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds, nuts, olive oil, fish, and seafood are plentiful in the Mediterranean diet.
Researchers have found that animals on a Mediterranean diet didn’t eat all the available food and so didn’t put on weight.
Professor Carol Shively, the study’s first author, said:

“By comparison, the animals on a Western diet ate far more than they needed and gained weight.”

The study compared the impact of consuming a Mediterranean diet with a Western diet on monkeys.
The Western diet was mainly from animal sources, whereas the Mediterranean diet was from plant products but with the same amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Professor Shively said:
“What we found was that the group on the Mediterranean diet actually ate fewer calories, had lower body weight and had less body fat than those on the Western diet.”
The results show that in contrast to a Western diet, a Mediterranean diet averted binge eating, prediabetes, and obesity.
Moreover, the Mediterranean diet was shown to protect the subjects from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
The build up of excessive fat in the liver causes this condition which leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
NAFLD is a consequence of obesity and sadly it is predicted that one-third of the United States population will have the disease by 2030.
NAFLD is becoming a more frequent reason for liver transplants in young American adults.
Professor Shively said:
“Diet composition is a critically important contributor to the U.S. public health, and unfortunately those at the greatest risk for obesity and related costly chronic diseases also have the poorest quality diets.
The Western diet was developed and promoted by companies who want us to eat their food, so they make it hyper-palatable, meaning it hits all our buttons so we overconsume.
Eating a Mediterranean diet should allow people to enjoy their food and not overeat, which is such a problem in this country.
We hope our findings will encourage people to eat healthier foods that are also enjoyable, and improve human health.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the journal Obesity (Shively et al., 2020). 
source: Psyblog
trout_fish

FODMAP Diet: What You Need to Know

You may have heard of the FODMAP diet from a friend or on the internet. When people say “FODMAP diet,” they usually mean a diet low in FODMAP — certain sugars that may cause intestinal distress. This diet is designed to help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) figure out which foods are problematic and which foods reduce symptoms.

“The low FODMAP diet is a temporary eating plan that’s very restrictive,” says Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Hazel Galon Veloso, M.D. “It’s always good to talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, but especially with the low FODMAP diet since it eliminates so many foods — it’s not a diet anyone should follow for long. It’s a short discovery process to determine what foods are troublesome for you.”

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine absorbs poorly. Some people experience digestive distress after eating them. Symptoms include:

  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach bloating
  • Gas and flatulence

How does the low FODMAP diet work?

Low FODMAP is a three-step elimination diet:

  1. First, you stop eating certain foods (high FODMAP foods).
  2. Next, you slowly reintroduce them to see which ones are troublesome.
  3. Once you identify the foods that cause symptoms, you can avoid or limit them while enjoying everything else worry-free.

“We recommend following the elimination portion of the diet for only two to six weeks,” says Veloso. “This reduces your symptoms and if you have SIBO, it can help decrease abnormally high levels of intestinal bacteria. Then every three days, you can add a high FODMAP food back into your diet, one at a time, to see if it causes any symptoms. If a particular high FODMAP food causes symptoms, then avoid this long term.”

What can I eat on the FODMAP diet?

Foods that trigger symptoms vary from person to person.

To ease IBS and SIBO symptoms, it’s essential to avoid high FODMAP foods that aggravate the gut, including:

  • Dairy-based milk, yogurt and ice cream
  • Wheat-based products such as cereal, bread and crackers
  • Beans and lentils
  • Some vegetables, such as artichokes, asparagus, onions and garlic
  • Some fruits, such as apples, cherries, pears and peaches

Instead, base your meals around low FODMAP foods such as:

  • Eggs and meat
  • Certain cheeses such as brie, Camembert, cheddar and feta
  • Almond milk
  • Grains like rice, quinoa and oats
  • Vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini
  • Fruits such as grapes, oranges, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple

Get a full list of FODMAP food from your doctor or nutritionist.

Who should try it?

The low FODMAP diet is part of the therapy for those with IBS and SIBO. Research has found that it reduces symptoms in up to 86% of people.

Because the diet can be challenging during the first, most restrictive phase, it’s important to work with a doctor or dietitian, who can ensure you’re following the diet correctly — which is crucial to success — and maintaining proper nutrition.

“Anyone who is underweight shouldn’t try this on their own,” says Veloso. “The low FODMAP diet isn’t meant for weight loss, but you can lose weight on it because it eliminates so many foods. For someone at an already too low weight, losing more can be dangerous.”

How a Doctor Can Help

Dietary changes can have a big impact on IBS and SIBO symptoms, but doctors often use other therapies as well. Antibiotics can quickly reduce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, while laxatives and low-dose antidepressants can relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

A combination of dietary changes, medications and stress management techniques is often the best approach. Learn how you can work with a doctor to find the SIBO and IBS treatments that work well for you.

Reviewed By:  Hazel Galon Veloso, M.D.


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How Anxiety and Your Diet are Connected, According to Experts

The baseline existential dread of the pandemic has made me more attuned than ever to my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms. These days, I’m especially mindful about not only checking in with my therapist and refilling my medication on time, but also about my intake of caffeine, booze, and foods I have trouble digesting, all of which seem to worsen my anxiety.
For the past several years, researchers have also been interested in the connection between what we eat and how we feel. Along the way, anti-anxiety diets have emerged, along with lists of foods to eat and avoid to keep anxiety at bay. Ever the skeptical health journalist, though, I wonder whether we have enough evidence to conclude that certain foods can increase or decrease anxiety. Can you really manage your anxiety through diet?
According to the experts I interviewed, the general idea that what you eat can impact your anxiety levels is consistent with the research so far. But they caution that the effects of specific foods on anxiety aren’t entirely clear, and they remain wary of broad recommendations about what to eat and what to avoid in order manage anxiety. Last but certainly not least, remixing your diet can’t replace therapy or medication.
“Quite a bit of research” shows that staying hydrated and following a balanced diet, with minimal caffeine and alcohol, can affect mental health, says Sarah Adler, a clinical associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford Medicine. We know caffeine is a stimulant, while alcohol can cause a rebound in anxiety following the short-term relief it provides, and it disrupts sleep, which “really primes your body to be more anxious.” We also know your body metabolizes the complex carbs in whole foods slower than the simple sugars in processed foods, which helps stabilize your blood sugar, creating an overall sense of calm.
This is consistent with what we know about the trajectory anxiety tends to follow: it feeds on itself, growing until it plateaus, then resolves, says Petros Levounis, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “If you sustain this curve, meaning, if you stay with the anxiety, and your body experiences the plateau and the resolution, it teaches your body little by little, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he explains. “Your anxiety gets a little better.”
Aborting your anxiety, though — not only by physically fleeing the source of it, but chemically, by consuming alcohol or processed sugar, for example — makes this lesson harder for your body to learn, worsening your anxiety in the long run. These ingredients have an immediate, satisfying effect on your central nervous system. Complex carbohydrates that take time to digest allow you to sit with your anxiety.
Beyond healthy eating guidelines, though, a vast amount of literature has surfaced about the gut-brain connection, Adler tells me. Your gut, a.k.a., your intestines, “has something like 100 million neurons, and those neurons help you produce neurotransmitters,” including “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin. “Whether [the neurons are] firing properly is highly influenced by what’s inside your gut.” Specifically, the balance of the bacterial community that inhabits in your gut — your gut microbiome — “plays a really important role in the function of those neurons.”
And now, scientists are just beginning to understand how specific nutrients might directly affect anxiety. An analysis of human studies associated treatment with omega-3 fatty acid, found at high levels in fish and seafood, with reduced anxiety symptoms. Adler cites studies that have demonstrated, for example, that diets low in magnesium increase anxiety-related behaviors in mice, suggesting that magnesium-rich foods like chard, nuts, seeds, and whole grains “can potentially have an impact on anxiety.” Some foods with possibly anxiety-lowering properties have been shown to increase the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. The results are preliminary but promising.
Some anti-anxiety diets are based partly on the theory that links anxiety to inflammation, and call for eliminating supposedly pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, while upping your intake of anti-inflammatory foods like turkey and turmeric, for a few weeks. Indeed, “anxiety is generally thought to be correlated with a lower inflammation state,” Adler says. But “I think I would be really mindful of telling to people to cut out things.” Anxiety is associated with disordered eating behaviors, so heavily restrictive diets might make you more susceptible to them if you already struggle with anxiety.
Levounis is also wary of recommendations of foods based on whether they increase or decrease inflammation. “I’m not sure we’re at the point where we can pinpoint foods and how they relate to pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects,” he says. Suggesting or advising against a pro- or anti-inflammatory food to manage anxiety requires first, proving it’s pro- or anti-inflammatory, and then, whether eating it even translates to alleviating or worsening anxiety. “It’s a two-step process. I’m not sure if we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s on it.”
Adler also cautions against making “blanket recommendations for everyone,” since responses to specific foods vary from person to person. Instead, she advises being mindful of how different foods make you feel, not just in the moment, but the next day, as well. Maybe cut out a category of food, like processed foods, for a period of time, with the intention of noting how you feel. Then, gradually reintroduce them, asking yourself if you feel any differently when doing so. This way, you can identify specific foods within a category that affect your anxiety.
Particularly if you have an anxiety disorder — anxiety that impairs your ability to function as opposed to a healthy response to a stressful situation — you don’t want to address it solely through diet. “It’s concerning to think that somebody may rely on choice of food to treat bona fide psychiatric disorders while we do have treatments that have been scientifically proven to help,” like medication and therapy, Levounis says. If you have an anxiety disorder and want to experiment with your diet, he suggests speaking to a nutritionist or primary care doctor, but without neglecting tried and true treatments.
She believes therapy would ideally include talking about other factors related to emotional well-being, such as diet and exercise. “Managing your diet is a part of managing your anxiety,” she says. After all, any self-sabotaging habits you engage in beyond therapy can undermine the hard work you do within it. Rather than directing you to change your diet in a certain way, it can give you an understanding of “all the levers you can pull to help you reduce your anxiety.”
The idea of diet as one of several tools to manage anxiety really resonates. Personally, I’ll stick to my healthy-ish diet, along with therapy and medication, without getting too caught up in whether I should be eating X or Y and focusing on what makes me feel good.
By Melissa Pandika      Jan. 21, 2021
source: www.mic.com

How To Help A Friend With Anxiety When You’re Struggling Yourself

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to assist a loved one with their mental health, that’s OK. Here’s what therapists recommend.
Anxiety levels are through the roof, which can only be expected in a pandemic – and sadly some friendships are feeling the strain as a result.
Friends are catching up on Zoom, messaging on Whatsapp and in some cases meeting one-on-one to chew the fat over the pandemic, subsequent lockdowns and the huge life – and therefore, mental – impact it’s having.
Anxiety levels appear to remain the same as they were back in April, according to a survey by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is monitoring the social impacts of the coronavirus in Britain.
Its most recent survey revealed 76% of adults are now “very or somewhat” worried about the effect of the coronavirus on their life – this has increased gradually since the end of the summer.
It’s getting to the point where some friendships are feeling increasingly strained, and sometimes one-sided – people are playing host to their friends’ venting sessions while struggling to deal with their own anxieties – and finding it hard to juggle the two.
“My friend unloads her anxiety on me, and now I feel drained,” was the title of a Guardian advice column submission that had heads bobbing in agreement.
“It’s becoming less about having conversations and more about listening to an exhausting monologue,” the advice-seeker wrote of their relationship with an anxious friend in the pandemic. They just didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with all of that anxiety, in addition to their own.
So, how can you support an anxious friend?
It can be hard to know where to begin when supporting someone who is anxious – especially as we all experience anxiety differently, and at varying levels. Not everyone has lots of people they can rely on for support, either.
A good place to start is by stopping and specifically asking your friend (or loved one) what they might want or need, says psychotherapist and member of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, Rakhi Chand.
This could be a distraction – why not chat about something that doesn’t involve the timeframe for a coronavirus vaccine or the state of American politics? – or it could just be offering a listening ear.

Some of the best support you can offer is letting your friend know you’re there to support them, and you can understand and empathize with how they are feeling, says psychotherapist Lucy Fuller. But it can be “very difficult” to be in the presence of someone who is feeling really anxious when you yourself are feeling that way, she adds.

If this resonates with you, it might be helpful to ask yourself what you need in a given moment. Chand says, for example, that sometimes she knows she needs fresh air or exercise to take her mind off concerns, and at other times she needs to sit and dissect the issues with her loved one.
Don’t dismiss your own anxiety in the process, she adds. “I think many of us are good at subtly dismissing ourselves by ending sentences with things like ‘but I’m really lucky, lots of people have it much worse.’ Whilst perspective is good, notice where you are on a spectrum of dismissing yourself. Too much of dismissing your anxiety won’t help it ultimately.”
Be gentle on yourself if you know you just haven’t got the bandwidth at that time, on that particular day, to shoulder someone else’s concerns. And do feel free to let them know that – albeit kindly.
“I would suggest being honest and letting them know that you are sorry it is so difficult for them, but that you are also on a cliff edge and can’t cope with it all right now,” suggests Fuller. “Comfort might be gained from just being together, even not talking.”
One way of doing this might be taking a walk together in natural and beautiful surroundings (a forest perhaps, along the coast, or even around the block or park) so you’re both moving away from the biggest points of stress for an hour.
“Try to share the activity of taking in the surroundings and being in the moment,” says Fuller. “There can be comfort gained from being in the presence of someone you love or have great respect for, without sharing words, but experiencing a parallel sense of calm.”
It’s also worth noting that if you are regularly finding you simply can’t deal with a friend’s anxieties because you feel under a lot of strain, it may be a sign that you too should seek some help. “If you regularly haven’t got space to support or listen to them then maybe it’s time to speak to a professional,” says Chand.
anxiety
What not to do
Therapists generally advise against trying to fix the problem for your friend – unless they specifically ask for your advice. The listening is more important.
“Often the last thing people need when they are feeling wobbly is for someone they rely on to try to fix the problem, or tell them what they ‘should’ be doing in order to make themselves feel better,” says Fuller. “It isn’t always as simple as that, so by coming supportively ‘alongside’ someone who is experiencing emotional difficulties is a very comforting way of supporting them.”
Telling a friend that you know how they feel isn’t usually helpful either, adds Fuller, “as it takes away the seriousness of the emotional condition that they are experiencing”.
Similarly, she cautions against your friendship catch-ups turning into an “anxiety competition” – which can develop, consciously or subconsciously.
“To say or suggest to someone that they don’t feel as bad as you diminishes their experience and can shame them into thinking that it isn’t safe to share their feelings with you,” she says. So best not to go down that route.
While venting is a “very healthy and important way to alleviate stress and anxiety,” ultimately if either of you need to vent more and you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by everything, doing so to a professional in person or using a mental health helpline might be a good solution.
This story originally appeared in HuffPost UK.
By Natasha Hinde        11/12/2020

How To De-clutter Your Life
And Reduce Anxiety In 10 Steps

You don’t need Marie Kondo to save you.

Last summer, mere months after swearing that I wasn’t going to have a second baby, I found out I was having a second baby. Oh, universe.

Of all the varied emotions (most of them happy, for the record) I felt over “li’l surprise,” as we’ve come to call him, one of the most prevalent was panic over how to fit him in our two-bedroom, already overflowing, toddler-dominated townhouse. Like, actually, where is this baby going to go? A drawer? It might be a drawer.

This panic quickly morphed to full-fledged anxiety over the clutter I find myself surrounded by on a daily basis. Toys everywhere. An entirely unusable basement thanks to boxes we never unpacked from our last move. A shame-closet so stuffed with junk we can’t even open the door.

When I was about 12 weeks pregnant, I booked an appointment with my therapist to discuss my feelings about bringing another baby into the world. I spent $160/hour crying to her about the state of my basement.

It was time to to act. For the baby, who deserves more than a drawer to call his own, and for my own mental health.

Clutter really is linked to anxiety
Clutter and anxiety go together like boozy date nights and surprise pregnancies: kind of inevitable.

“Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives,” psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote in Psychology Today.

The negative effect of clutter is especially prevalent among women, the New York Times notes, citing a 2019 study that found a cluttered home is a stressful home. Another study from 2010 found that women who perceived their homes as messy or cluttered had increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) throughout the day.

But, as Carter explains in Psychology Today, clutter is actually one of the easiest sources of life stress to fix — much easier than fixing a stressful job or relationship issues, for instance. You just have to do it.

It took work. It took time. But I am pleased to say I have significantly reduced the clutter in my house and my mind over the last several months. Here’s how I did it, and how you can, too:

1. Pick one project at a time
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by de-cluttering your entire house, so break it up into bite-sized pieces. Pick one project, such as going through your closet and donating everything you never wear. Then bask in the glory of finishing something.

“This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little,” Carter notes.

Even just taking a single night off from Netflix will give you two to three hours, which is plenty of time to tackle that junk drawer full of used batteries and dead pens.

2. Be ruthless
Adopt a stone-cold attitude. Now is not the time to weep over that genius essay you wrote in Grade 4. If you don’t use it, and there’s little sentimental value, give it away or toss it.

Here is a random sample of just some of the crap from my house I either threw out, recycled, or donated over the last few months:

  • About 300 books
  • Two bookshelves
  • Dozens of kitchen appliances I have never used, such as an egg steamer (??)
  • The elliptical machine, nicknamed “El Bastardo” that has doubled as a laundry hanger for at least five years
  • My ex’s guitar (sorry)
  • Dozens of giant photo frames or framed art we were never actually going to hang again.
  • All of my impractical shoes. I’m about to be a mom of two, so let’s get real
  • An entire cupboard full of bath and beauty products I’ve never or barely used
  • An antique steamer trunk from the foot of the bed that my husband tripped over every. single. night.

3. Join a ‘Buy Nothing’ group
As satisfying as it is to drop off car loads of stuff at the Salvation Army or Value Village, chances are your neighbourhood has a “Buy Nothing” group where people will come to your house and take your stuff away, no questions asked!

That antique steamer trunk I mentioned? A mom in my neighbourhood took it, gave it to her pirate-obsessed son, and now he has his own treasure trunk. YARR!

4. Donate books
Yeah, I know. This one can be controversial for book lovers. And I am one, so I get it.

If you have the space, and don’t consider books clutter, great. But if you have a basement overflowing with multiple copies of Memoirs of a Geisha and every psychology textbook from your undergrad, it might be time to let go.

And let go I did. I asked my husband to do the same and we parsed it down to a meaningful collection.

And you know what? It didn’t even hurt. I’m happy thinking about other people finding joy in the books that were just collecting dust in my basement.

5. Invest in furniture that doubles as storage
Out of sight, out of mind. Consider investing in a piece of furniture that doubles as storage. I got this storage ottoman from Ikea, and now all of my son’s toy trains and tracks have a place to live other than my living room floor.

You can also re-purpose existing furniture for storage. One of my (now-empty) square bookshelves is now a handy toy shelf in my son’s playroom.

6. Look critically at the space you do have and how it can be used better
This one was huge for me, and important for anyone living in a small space. Instead of pining for more room (we very nearly moved), look critically at how your current space can be better utilized. For me, that meant tackling the biggest stressor of all … my basement.

After, many, many trips to Value Village and weeks spent sorting, I morphed my previously unusable basement into a playroom for my toddler. This allowed us to move all of his toys cluttering my living room, thus creating usable space (for me!) upstairs.


Suddenly, I could breathe again.

I gave my bedroom a similar makeover. We don’t have a third bedroom to turn into a nursery for this little nugget, but we do have a pretty large master. After giving away the steamer trunk, half my clothes, and moving a few decorative lamps, the back end of our room is now the “nursery.”


We’re ready for you, li’l surprise!

7. Rotate toys
Did you know kids get overwhelmed by having too much “stuff,” too? A 2017 study found that kids with too many toys get easily distracted and have lower-quality playtime. Fewer toys lead to more, focused creative play.

Researchers suggest that parents pack away most of the children’s toys, and rotate them a few at a time.

8. De-clutter your schedule
Congrats, your house is looking more like a house and less like an emporium of crap! But there’s still more de-cluttering you could do.

If you’re anything like me, you spend your weekends shuttling your kids to museums, drop ins, classes … anything to keep busy! But now that I have a house I can actually stand to spend time in, we’ve started embracing slow weekends at home, and everyone is better for it.

Send your kid to the playroom. Do an art project. Make pancakes together. You’ll all feel calmer when you use your down-time to actually relax.

9. De-clutter your socials
While you’re bettering your life, how about cleaning up your social media? Unfollow any accounts you don’t really care about (like all those baby product accounts you followed just to enter free giveaways), so that you’re more likely to see updates from those you do care about.

Take stock of how many online parenting groups you’re in (I’m in about 37, no joke). Mute the ones you don’t really need nor care to see on a daily basis.

Finally, if you’re doing any hate follows (we’re all guilty of this, right?), consider letting go. You live your life, little miss perfect mommy blogger we only follow to hate, and we’ll live ours. Go in peace. Enjoy your home-grown, organic mung beans.

10. De-clutter your mind
Your house, schedule, and social media are all cleaned up. All that’s left to tackle now is your mind (oh, just that?). Embracing mindfulness is a great way to help you roll with the punches, be more present, and control your reactions, parenting expert Alyson Schafer notes.

Here are some great apps to get you started:

  • Dan Harris’s 10% Happier
  • Sam Harris’s Waking Up
  • Meditation Timer
  • Calm
By Natalie Stechyson         01/06/2020


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11 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” 

– Carl Jung

Bouncing back is a concept well understood in the context of recovering from a sports injury. Following favorite players’ comeback stories fills fans with inspiration, encourages perseverance in pursuit of personal goals, and fosters a sense of self-confidence, like we can do it if they can. Cultivating resilience in the face of all life’s challenges is a proactive way of dealing with the unexpected, the upsets and disappointments, the pitfalls and successes in life, including how to cope with trauma, chronic pain, adversity and tragedy.

Resilience: What It’s All About

An article in Forbes defines resilience as “the capacity for stress-related growth” and states that resilience has two parts related to the way you bounce back and grow:

  • From big work or life adversity and trauma
  • From dealing with daily hassles and stress

A study in Health Psychology showed that the frequency and intensity of repeated or chronic everyday life strains is strongly associated with overall health and illness, even more so than major life events.

A 2013 study found that exposure to chronic frequent negative emotion and the inability to process daily stress exacts a long-term toll on mental health.

Resilience, say researchers in an article published in Trauma, Violence & Abuse, can manifest either as “prosocial behaviors or pathological adaptation depending on the quality of the environment.” If individuals suffering from lasting effects of trauma and adversity have access to resources that help them cope, they will be more likely to develop prosocial behaviors that may facilitate healing.

Rolbieki et al. (2017) explored resilience among patients living with chronic pain and found that they showed resiliency in four ways: developing a sense of control (actively seeking information and conferring with their doctor to confirm his/her recommendations; actively engaging in both medical and complementary treatment; making social connections and exhibiting acceptance of pain and positive effect.

One surprising finding is that chronic stress accelerates aging at the cellular level – in the body’s telomeres. These are the repeating segments of non-coding DNA at the end of chromosomes. Scientists have discovered that telomeres can be lengthened or shortened – so the goal is to have more days of renewal of cells than destruction or wear and tear on them.

Researchers suggest resilience should be regarded as an emotional muscle, one that can be strengthened and cultivated. Dr. Dennis Charney, co-author of “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenge,” says people can weather and recover from trauma by developing and incorporating 10 resilience skills, including facing fear, optimism and social support. Dr. Charney, resilience researcher and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, was shot as he exited a deli. Following the shooting, Dr. Charney faced a long and difficult recovery. The resilience researcher himself had to employ strategies of coping he’d studied and taught.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that resilience isn’t a trait that people either have or don’t. Instead, resilience “involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

resilient

Ways to Cultivate Resilience

Among the varied ways to develop and cultivate resilience, some are more self-evident than others, yet each is worth a try when attempting to weather life’s challenges.

  1. Act. Even small steps add to a sense of accomplishment, of being proactive instead of reactive. Start with something you feel confident you can do and ask for help if you need it. There’s a lot to be said about self-empowerment when you act in your own best interests. After all, no one else can act for you.
  2. Add to coping resources. Everyone can benefit from having a toolkit of effective coping resources. Combat stress, depression, anxiety and other emotional, psychological and physical issues and conditions through meditation, mindful yoga, exercise and whatever helps you relax, including reading, music, doing puzzles, painting, writing and more.
  3. Embrace flexibility. Instead of regarding your situation as no-win, steer towards an attitude of flexibility. Learn the art of compromise, as in, “I may not be able to run a marathon, yet I can manage a walk in the neighborhood with friends.” In addition, when running into fatigue or pain that prevents you from continuing, congratulate yourself on your effort and the fact that you acted to improve your resilience. Over time, you’ll get stronger and be able to do more, thus adding to your resilience and helping to improve your overall physical and mental health.
  4. Practice optimism. Science says that some optimism is genetic, while some is learned. You can train yourself with practice in positive self-thinking to see opportunity instead of a dead-end, to view a glass as half full instead of half empty. There’s also truth in self-fulfilling attitudes. If you believe you’ll be successful in overcoming adversity, you’re more likely to succeed. The opposite is also true: If you think you’ll fail, you probably will.
  5. Take advantage of support. When you need help, it’s OK to ask for it. In fact, when you know you have support available and are willing to use it, you’re exercising prosocial behavior. Similarly, when you can do so, offer your support to others who may need it.
  6. Avoid personalizing. There’s no point in engaging in blame or endlessly thinking about your situation. Besides being counter-productive, it makes you feel worse. Make use of some of the healthy coping measures you’ve successfully used before and stop ruminating about what happened to you.
  7. Regard the setback/disappointment as temporary. Nothing lasts forever, not even life-altering events, trauma, adversity and pain. You can navigate through this turbulent and emotionally trying time by realizing that this is temporary, and things will get better with your active involvement in your healing process.
  8. Write your new story. Psychiatrists and psychologists call this “reframing” and it refers to changing your story to focus on the opportunities revealed. For example, say you’ve returned from active deployment in a war zone with extensive physical and psychological injuries. Instead of remaining steeped in the negative aspects of your experience, allow yourself to center on other senses, traits, skills and resources you have at your disposal – your empathy, understanding, ability to solve problems, a wide support network, loving family and close friends.
  9. Cultivate gratitude. When you are grateful and actively cultivate gratitude, you are taking advantage of a basic part of resilience and in contentment in life. The more you develop gratitude, the more resilient you’ll become.
  10. Remind yourself of other victories. This may be an intensely challenging time for you, a time when failures and negativity seem paramount and inevitable. Now is when you must remind yourself of your past successes, examples of seemingly impossible hurdles you’ve overcome, victories you’ve scored. This serves as self-reminder that you’ve come back from adversity before. You can do it again.
  11. Enhance spirituality. Religion and spirituality have been shown as predictors of resilience in various populations studied, including returning war veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma sufferers, children and adults who experience abuse or violence, patients enduring chronic pain. Prayer, self-reflection, communicating with a Higher Power serves as a healing balm to many who otherwise may resort to negative coping behaviors, such as drinking and drug use.

Last medically reviewed on April 5, 2018

source: psychcentral.com


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How To Overcome A Lack Of Sleep

A lack of sleep leads to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.

Just ten minutes of mindfulness helps the mind and body recover from sleep deprivation, new research finds.

Failing to get 7-8 hours sleep per night is linked to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.

But mindfulness has a remarkable restorative effect.

Ten minutes of mindfulness during the day is enough to compensate for 44 minutes of lost sleep at night, the study of entrepreneurs found.

Here are some mindfulness exercises that are easy to fit into your day.

Dr Charles Murnieks, the study’s first author, said:

“You can’t replace sleep with mindfulness exercises, but they might help compensate and provide a degree of relief.

As little as 70 minutes a week, or 10 minutes a day, of mindfulness practice may have the same benefits as an extra 44 minutes of sleep a night.”

The study followed 105 entrepreneurs, 40% of whom were working 50 hours per week or more and sleeping less than six hours a night.

The results showed that entrepreneurs who engaged in more mindfulness were less exhausted.

A second study of a further 329 entrepreneurs also found that mindfulness could offset the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.

However, mindfulness only works in this context when people are low on sleep.

Some people are getting enough sleep, but still feel exhausted.

Dr Murnieks said:

“If you’re feeling stressed and not sleeping, you can compensate with mindfulness exercises to a point.

But when you’re not low on sleep, mindfulness doesn’t improve those feelings of exhaustion.”

Mindfulness helps to reduce stressors before they lead to exhaustion.

For entrepreneurs and others with long working hours, mindfulness can be beneficial.

Dr Murnieks said:

“There are times when you’re launching a new venture that you’re going to have to surge.

Mindfulness exercises may be one way to provide some relief during those tough stretches.”

The study was published in the Journal of Business Venturing (Murnieks et al., 2019).

January 6, 2021

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. 

source: PsyBlog

sleepless

9 Things Sleep Doctors Would Never Do At Night Before Going To Bed

Experts reveal which bedtime habits to avoid if you want to feel rested in the morning.

Getting quality sleep affects everything ― your mood, your weight, your immune system and so much more.
But for many people, logging a full night’s rest can be a challenge. Less than half of North American adults (49%) get the recommended seven to eight hours of shuteye, according to a Better Sleep Council survey from March. And just over half of respondents (52%) described their sleep quality as “poor” or “fair.”
What you do — and don’t do — leading up to bedtime matters; your evening routine can impact your sleep for better or for worse.
We asked sleep doctors what they avoid doing before crawling into their sheets. Of course, no one has perfect sleep habits — not even experts ― but here’s what they try to steer clear of:
1. They don’t watch the news.
“Even though nighttime might seem like the perfect time to catch up on the latest COVID-19 information or the presidential race, we should try to avoid things that can cause anxiety before bed. Unfortunately, nowadays the news is filled with things that can cause worry and other unwanted emotions that you definitely want to avoid if you are hoping to get a good night’s sleep. The news, in some ways, keeps people up late at night the same way that a horror movie can. Images and information regarding violence or fear stimulate your mind preventing you from having a smooth transition into sleep.” — Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine
2. They avoid working in bed.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant proportion of our population is working from home these days, and as such, your home has become your office. You want to avoid at all costs working from your bed, however, as you want to maintain the relationship with the brain that the bed is only for two things — sleep and sex.
As you do more and more mentally stimulating activities in bed, the brain slowly develops a psychological association of the bed being a place to stay awake rather than sleep. This, in turn, can trigger people to develop sleep-onset insomnia. Your house is already your office, so during these difficult times, use the bed as your sanctuary — a place to relax, escape work and sleep.” ― Ruchir P. Patel, medical director of the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
3. They don’t work out.
“Exercise in the morning or during the daytime can go a long way to helping improve insomnia symptoms at night, but exercise late in the day can be counterproductive. Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.” ― Stacey Gunn, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
If you watch to catch some Zzzs, avoid exercising too close to your bedtime.
4. They steer clear of tense conversations.
“Try your hardest to avoid a heated conversation with your significant other before bed. As the saying goes, never go to bed angry, or bad feelings will harden into resentment. There is research to support the idea that negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep.
Plus, anger is a huge turn-off. If you do this repeatedly, it creates an unhealthy pattern, and destroys potential opportunities for sexual intimacy. Confrontations lead to a stress response, which is exactly opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. It’s important to create a peaceful environment for you and your partner to have a good night’s sleep. Instead of fighting, maybe snuggle up together and watch ‘Love Actually,’ one of my personal favorites.” — Dasgupta
5. They absolutely do not consume caffeine.
“Avoid drinking any caffeinated drinks past 2 p.m. Caffeinated drinks —including coffee, soda, iced tea, pre-work out drinks or energy drinks — act as a stimulant. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors — and adenosine [plays a role in] sleep homeostasis.” — Anupama Ramalingam, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
6. They try to avoid drinking alcohol.

“Some people end up self-medicating with a nightcap, because it does help them to fall asleep more easily at the beginning of the night. But I recommend against it because it causes the sleep architecture to be disrupted later on, resulting in poor quality sleep. If I do have a drink in the evening, I try to separate it from bedtime, and give the alcohol a chance to clear out of my system before going to sleep.” ― Gunn

“Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.”

7. They don’t use electronic devices (without a blue light filter).

“In sleep and circadian science, we use the term ‘zeitgeber’ — or ‘time giver’ — to describe environmental cues that help us entrain to a 24-hour cycle. Light is the most powerful zeitgeber that signals the brain to stay awake. Prolonged exposure to bright light around bedtime keeps us awake and reduces the amount of sleep we get. Exposure to light at night also suppresses the brain’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that is released in response to darkness and helps us to fall asleep.” ― Anita Shelgikar, clinical associate professor of neurology and director of the sleep medicine fellowship at the University of Michigan
8. They also don’t keep the lights in their home turned up bright.
“I was reminded during a fishing trip to the Outer Banks [in North Carolina] with my nephews of the importance of avoiding artificial light before bedtime. We were forced to use propane lanterns on the island each night as there was no electricity available. Several of the parents on the fishing trip remarked that the darkness had improved their sleep so much that they might pitch the idea of ‘Lantern Tuesday’ to their spouses: A night each week dedicated to reducing light exposure and improving sleep sounds like a great idea to me!
Exposure to bright light suppresses melatonin secretion. Plus, alteration of the circadian rhythm (or the daily rhythmic sleep-wake cycle) by nocturnal light exposure may contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic disease. What sort of practical steps can one take to avoid bright light? Dim the lights in the home except for a few lamps several hours before bed.” — William J. Healy, assistant professor of medicine and director of sleep quality improvement at Augusta University.
9. They make sure they don’t spend a long time awake in bed.
“Many of our patients will give themselves a 10-hour sleep window but realistically are only asleep for six to eight hours. Please do not spend more time in bed than you really need. All the extra time in bed awake results in your brain starting to develop an association that the bed is a place to be awake and also sleep. But this, in turn, can result in disruption of your sleep drive and thus result in poor sleep efficiency and sleep quality.” — Patel
By  Kelsey Borresen      11/04/2020


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The 4 Steps That Will Increase Happiness, According To A New Study

Researchers believe these daily habits will train your brain to achieve better overall well-being. (Worth a try, right?)

Researchers believe they’ve cracked the code when it comes to achieving overall emotional and mental wellness through four key pillars.

This past year has been an excruciating one for millions of North Americans, and our collective well-being has taken a serious hit. A majority of adults in the United States say their mental health is worse now than it was pre-pandemic. Feelings of isolation are up. A majority of North American adults report feeling overwhelmed by their current stress levels.

Against that bleak backdrop — and given that COVID-19 case numbers are still reaching record highs, even as vaccines have arrived— it seems silly, almost, to think about cultivating emotional well-being. Now? Really? And most importantly, how?!

A research paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers a mental training plan that its authors call the “how” of well-being. Their findings suggest there are four key behaviors that tend to contribute most to overall satisfaction. And they see their plan as a way in which people who already feel relatively healthy can cultivate mental wellness on a daily basis.

“It’s a more hopeful view of well-being,” study researcher Cortland Dahl of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds, a cross-disciplinary research institute, told HuffPost. “It’s the idea that you can take active steps that improve well-being, very much so in the way that you might take steps to improve physical health.”

Of course anyone grappling with severe stress, anxiety or other mental health concerns should absolutely reach out to a qualified mental health professional.

Looking to be more deliberate about training your brain to cultivate mental and emotional well-being? Here are the four basic pillars of the plan, and some simple steps you can start taking right away.

Step 1: Cultivate Awareness — And ‘Meta-awareness’

Awareness is a “heightened, flexible attentiveness to your environmental and internal cues,” according to the Center for Healthy Minds ― which basically means your surroundings as well as your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.

And studies do show that people with heightened awareness tend to have better overall well-being. Also, being distracted can lead to feelings of stress and unhappiness.

One simple tactic that will help you achieve this? Close your eyes and focus on the act of taking 10 breaths.

Another option? “One thing I like to do is when I’m doing dishes, I’ll notice the sounds, I’ll feel the sensations,” Dahl said.

The new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research — which pulls from a range of studies from the worlds of neuroscience, meditation traditions and more — suggests that “meta-awareness” is important, too. So it’s not only important to be aware; it’s also important to be aware that you’re being aware. Ultimately, cultivating meta-awareness helps you to deliberately direct and sustain your attention, the authors argue, rather than being pulled in by “distractors.”

Making a small effort to connect with friends, loved ones and colleagues via Zoom, email or text can help you tap into deeper feelings of kinship.

smile

Step 2: Cultivate Connection

Forging and strengthening a sense of togetherness is certainly a difficult goal amid COVID-19. But making a small effort to connect with friends, loved ones and colleagues via Zoom, email or text can be enough to help you tap into deeper feelings of kinship as the pandemic continues.

The researchers also say that simply cultivating feelings of kindness toward others can be enough to help boost your sense of connection — regardless of whether the person on the receiving end even knows you’re thinking about them.

They cite several studies and pilot programs that suggest kindness meditation programs can lower feelings of distress and boost positive feelings. There is even some preliminary evidence that these types of practices may help lessen implicit bias.

“You can start with a simple appreciation practice,” Dahl said. That might entail bringing a friend or loved one into your mind, then consciously focusing on the things you really cherish about them.

Step 3: Practice Insight

The researchers define insight as having self-knowledge about how your own emotions, thoughts and beliefs shape your sense of who you think you are.

And working to develop this kind of insight can empower you to challenge the beliefs you’ve held about yourself that you may have thought were immutable, Dahl explained. He cited a personal example, describing how he used to be deeply unsettled by public speaking and believed this was just an unchangeable fact of who he was.

“Instead of having this kind of constant judgment, we can get curious about our own inner worlds,” Dahl said.

One practical, real-world way to to do that is to simply notice when a negative thought crops up, and be inquisitive, the researchers wrote. Stop and ask yourself: Where is this thought coming from? Is it based in any assumptions?

Make an effort to notice how even some of the most mundane activities you do every day are connected to your core values. For example, doing the dishes might be an act of generosity toward those you love.

Step 4: Connect With Your Purpose

You don’t have to try and orient every day toward some far-reaching sense of purpose with a “capital P,” Dahl said. But it can be worthwhile to spend time thinking about your deep core values. Then make an effort to notice how even some of the most mundane activities you do every day are connected to them.

For example, doing the dishes or cooking a meal at the end of a long day might be an act of generosity toward those you love. Signing on for your “fifth Zoom meeting of the day” may help connect you to a career that you find meaningful.

Research has shown that having a larger sense of purpose in life is linked to positive health outcomes ― from resilience in the face of trauma to overall lower risk of death.

And ultimately, these four habits should help provide a clearer framework for people looking to improve their mental well-being and wondering how to start. If connecting with your sense of purpose every day doesn’t necessarily click with you right off the bat, for example, try something else.

“We think of this as the ‘eat your fruits and vegetables of mental health,’” said Christy Wilson-Mendenhall, a scientist at the Center for Healthy Minds who was also a researcher on the new paper.

The goal is to find what really works for you and that — crucially — “becomes easy to integrate into everyday life,” she said.

Catherine Pearson     12/30/2020

source: www.huffingtonpost.ca


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10 Exercises That Can Make You Mentally Stronger

Building a little mental muscle could have a big impact on your life.

If you want to lift heavier objects, you need more physical strength. Large biceps and a strong back will go a long way toward helping you do the heavy lifting.

Well, the same can be said for your mental muscles. If you want to be able to tackle bigger challenges and overcome more obstacles, you need more mental strength.

Like physical muscles, your mental muscles require a good workout. And these 10 exercises can help you start developing the mental strength you need to crush your goals.

1. Reframe negative thoughts.

If you are having catastrophic thoughts like “This will never work,” then replace them with something more realistic, like “If I work hard, I’ll improve my chances of success.”

It’s true that everyone has bad days that lead to negative thoughts. But by searching for positive and realistic expectations, you can eliminate these damaging pessimistic thoughts and better equip yourself to manage the bad days.

2. Create goals.

It’s fun to aim high and dream big. But setting your sights too high will likely lead to disappointment.

Rather than set out to lose 100 pounds, focus on losing five first. When you crush that goal, you’ll be more motivated to lose the next five pounds.

Every goal you achieve gives you confidence in your own ability to be successful. This will also help you identify which goals are not challenging enough and which ones are unrealistically ambitious.

3. Set yourself up for success.

You don’t need to subject yourself to temptations every day to stay mentally strong. Modify your environment from time to time. Make life a little easier.

Put your running sneakers next to the bed if you want to work out in the morning. Remove the junk food from your pantry if your goal is to eat healthier. Little things like this will go a long way toward keeping you from exhausting your own mental energy and setting yourself up for success.

4. Do at least one difficult thing each day.

Improvement doesn’t come about by accident. You need to challenge yourself on purpose. Make sure to analyze your own boundaries, though, since everyone has a different idea of what is challenging.

Have the courage to pick something slightly outside these boundaries. And then take one small step every day.

Enroll in a class you don’t think you qualify for. Speak up for yourself even when it is uncomfortable. Always push yourself to become a little better today than you were yesterday.

5. Tolerate discomfort for a greater purpose.

The feeling of discomfort can often lead people to look for unhealthy shortcuts. Binge TV-watching and overdrinking are common emotional crutches. But these types of short-term solutions more often create bigger long-term problems.

The next time you experience discomfort, remind yourself of the bigger picture. Finish that workout even when you are tired. Balance your budget even when it gives you anxiety. Tolerating uncomfortable emotions can help you gain the confidence you need to crush your goals.

optimism-equals-success

6. Balance your emotions with logic.

If you were to be 100 percent logical all the time, you might live a boring life, devoid of leisure time, pleasure, or even love. But if you base all of your decisions on emotion, you might spend all your money on fun, rather than save for retirement or investments. To make the best decisions, you need to balance your logic and emotion.

So regardless of how minor or major the decision in your life, check yourself to make sure you are balancing your emotions with logic.

Being overly anxious, angry, or excited can cause you to make an emotional decision. So write down a list of pros and cons for each decision you make. Reviewing this list will enhance the logical part of your brain and help balance out your emotions.

7. Fulfill your purpose.

It’s hard to stay the course unless you know your overall purpose. Why is it that you want to hone your craft or to earn more money?

Write out a clear and concise mission statement about what you want to accomplish in life. When you’re struggling to take the next step, remind yourself why it’s important to keep going. Focus on your daily objectives, but make sure those steps you’re taking will get you to a larger goal in the long run.

8. Look for explanations, not excuses.

Did you fall short of your goal? Then examine the reasons. Rather than make excuses for your behavior, look for an explanation than can help you do better next time.

Take on the full responsibility for any shortcomings without placing blame. When you face and acknowledge your mistakes, you can learn from them and avoid repeating them.

9. Use the 10-minute rule.

Mental strength can help you be productive when you don’t feel like it. But it’s not a magic wand that will make you feel motivated all the time.

There is a 10-minute rule that comes in handy when you are tempted to put off something important. If you catch yourself eyeing the couch at the time you planned to go for your mile run, then tell yourself to get moving for just 10 minutes. If your mind is still fighting your body after 10 minutes, then it might be OK to give yourself permission to quit.

But more often than not, once you take that first step, you’ll realize your task is not nearly as tough as you predicted. Getting started is almost always the hardest part, but your other learned skills can help keep you going.

10. Prove yourself wrong.

The next time you think you can’t do something, prove yourself wrong. Commit to topping your sales goal for this month or beating your time in the mile run.

You are more capable than you give yourself credit for, so make it a habit to prove yourself wrong. Over time, your brain will stop underestimating your own potential.


Build Your Mental Muscle

You won’t develop mental strength overnight. It takes time to grow stronger and become better. But with consistent exercise, you can build the mental strength you need to crush your goals and live the life of your dreams.

 About the Author    Amy Morin, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
Feb 25, 2020