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9 Ways to Promote Gratitude in Your Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor
8 Jul 2018
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How To Ace Thanksgiving

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

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

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

THE INTROVERTS AT YOUR TABLE

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

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

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

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

POLITICS OVER TURKEY

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

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

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

QUELLING TABLE-SIDE ERUPTIONS

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

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

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

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

turkey

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

BEYOND SORRY, NOT SORRY

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

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

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

THE GRATITUDE PUSH

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

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

ZOSIA BIELSKI     OCTOBER 7, 2019
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Common Nutrient Supplementation May Hold The Answers To Combating Alzheimer’s Disease

Summary:
In a new study, researchers reveal that a lifelong dietary regimen of choline holds the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

In a new study, Biodesign researchers reveal that a lifelong dietary regimen of choline holds the potential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Choline is a safe and easy-to-administer nutrient that is naturally present in some foods and can be used as a dietary supplement. Lead author Ramon Velazquez and his colleagues at the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center (NDRC) looked into whether this nutrient could alleviate the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Earlier this year, Velazquez and colleagues found transgenerational benefits of AD-like symptoms in mice whose mothers were supplemented with choline. The latest work expands this line of research by exploring the effects of choline administered in adulthood rather than in fetal mice.

The study focuses on female mice bred to develop AD-like symptoms. Given the higher prevalence of AD in human females, the study sought to establish the findings in female mice. Results showed that when these mice are given high choline in their diet throughout life, they exhibit improvements in spatial memory, compared with those receiving a normal choline regimen.

Notably, findings published in July 2019 from a group in China found benefits of lifelong choline supplementation in male mice with AD-like symptoms. “Our results nicely replicate findings by this group in females,” Velazquez says.

Intriguingly, the beneficial effects of lifelong choline supplementation reduce the activation of microglia. Microglia are specialized cells that rid the brain of deleterious debris. Although they naturally occur to keep the brain healthy, if they are overactivated, brain inflammation and neuronal death, common symptoms of AD, will occur.

The observed reductions in disease-associated microglia, which are present in various neurodegenerative diseases, offer exciting new avenues of research and suggest ways of treating a broad range of disorders, including traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

The findings appear in the current issue of the journal Aging Cell.

Supplementing the brain with additional choline

Choline acts to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease in at least two ways, both of which are explored in the new study. First, choline blocks the production of amyloid-beta plaques. Amyloid-beta plaques are the hallmark pathology observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Secondly, choline supplementation reduces the activation of microglia. Over-activation of microglia causes brain inflammation and can eventually lead to neuronal death, thereby compromising cognitive function. Choline supplementation reduces the activation of microglia, offering further protection from the ravages of AD.

Mechanistically, the reductions in microglia activation are driven by alteration of two key receptors, the alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine and Sigma-1 receptor. A new report this year found that choline can act as an agonist for Sigma-1 receptors. These results confirm that lifelong choline supplementation can alter the expression of the Sigma-1 receptor, which thereby attenuates microglia activation. (An agonist is a substance that activates a given receptor.)

The devastating decline

In the scientific community, it is well understood that Alzheimer’s disease causes harm to the brain long before clinical symptoms are made evident. And once these symptoms are identified, it is too late — the disease has become irreversible. In addition to causing disorientation and memory loss, the disease causes loss of motor control in those who are afflicted.

Approximately 6 million individuals are living with AD in the U.S. currently, and the disease is projected to afflict 14 million Americans in the next four decades. Economically, the costs associated with managing Alzheimer’s are expected to exceed $20 trillion in the same time span.

To develop more effective treatments, we first need to understand the disease itself, which is one of the tallest orders facing modern medicine today.

Women are at a particular increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This study shows that the simple addition of choline in the diet throughout life may reduce AD pathology in those most affected by the disease. Additionally, these results have implications for other neurodegenerative afflictions where activated microglia are rampant says Velazquez.

Guidelines for dietary choline

Prior research concerning Alzheimer’s has indicated that there is no one factor at play. Rather, a multitude of factors that are believed to contribute to the development of the disease, including genetics, age and lifestyle. Additionally, studies suggest that diet can have a significant effect in increasing or lowering the risk of cognitive decline.

A recent report suggested that plant-based diets may be determinantal due to the lack of important nutrients, including choline. Another recent report found that the increase in cases of dementia in the United Kingdom may be associated with a lack of recommendations for choline in the diet throughout life. In fact, as of August 2019, AD and other forms of dementia are now the leading cause of death in England and Wales.

The current established adequate intake level of choline for adult women (>19yrs of age) is 425mg/day, and 550mg/day for adult men. A converging line of evidence indicates that even the current recommended daily intake (RDI) may not be optimal for a proper aging process, especially in women. This is relevant, given the higher incidence of AD seen in women. This suggests that additional choline in diet may be beneficial in preventing neuropathological changes associated with the aging brain.

The tolerable upper limit (TUL) of choline unlikely to cause side effects for adult females and males (>19yrs of age) is 3500mg/day, which is 8.24 times higher than the 425mg/day recommendation for females and 6.36 times higher than the 550mg/day recommendation for males. “Our choline supplemented diet regimen was only 4.5 times the RDI, which is well below the TUL and makes this a safe strategy,” Velazquez says.

Choline can be found in various foods. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), high levels of choline are found in chicken liver (3oz; 247mg), eggs (1 large egg with yolk;147mg), beef grass-fed steak (3oz; 55mg), wheat germ (1oz toast; 51mg), milk (8oz; 38mg), and Brussel sprouts (1/2 cup; 32mg). Additionally, vitamin supplements containing choline, for example choline bitartrate and choline chloride, are widely available at affordable costs. The vitamin supplements containing choline are particularly relevant for those who are on plant-based diets.

Effects of choline

All plant and animal cells require choline to maintain their structural integrity. It has long been recognized that choline is particularly important for brain function.

The human body uses choline to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for functioning memory, muscle control and mood. Choline also is used to build cell membranes and plays a vital role in regulating gene expression. Additionally, a new report in Jan 2019 found that choline acts as an agonist for Sigma-1 receptors, which are implicated in AD pathogenesis.

In this study, researchers used a water maze to determine whether the mice with AD-like symptoms that received lifelong supplemental choline exhibited improvements in spatial memory. It was found that this was indeed the case, and subsequent examination of mouse tissue extracted from the hippocampus, a brain region known to play a central role in memory formation, confirmed changes in toxic amyloid-beta and reductions in microglia activation, which reduces brain inflammation.

Due to alterations of key microglia receptors induced by choline, the improvements in behavior may be attributed to reduced microglia activation. “We found that lifelong choline supplementation altered the alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine and Sigma-1 receptor, which may have resulted in the reduction of diseased associated activated microglia,” Velazquez said. These receptors regulate CNS immune response and their dysregulation contributes to AD pathogenesis.

The study’s significance establishes beneficial effects of nutrient supplementation in females throughout life. “Our work nicely complements recent work showing benefits in male AD-mice on a lifelong choline supplementation regimen.” “No one has shown lifelong benefits of choline supplementation in female AD-mice.” “That’s what is novel about our work.”

Choline is an attractive candidate for prevention of AD as it is considered a very safe alternative, compared with many pharmaceuticals. “At 4.5 times the RDI (recommended daily intake), we are well under the tolerable upper limit, making this a safe preventive therapeutic strategy.”

Although the results improve the understanding of the disease, the authors suggest that clinical trials will be necessary to confirm whether choline can be used as a viable treatment in the future.

Source:
Materials provided by Arizona State University. Original written by Richard Harth. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:
Ramon Velazquez, Eric Ferreira, Sara Knowles, Chaya Fux, Alexis Rodin, Wendy Winslow, Salvatore Oddo. Lifelong choline supplementation ameliorates Alzheimer’s disease pathology and associated cognitive deficits by attenuating microglia activation. Aging Cell, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/acel.13037

ScienceDaily,         27 September 2019. 

 

The Best Supplements

 

These Are The Supplements Health Experts Actually Use

Rule number one: ignore hype.

Taking supplements you don’t need can be dangerous.

Flick through social media and you’ll come across countless supplements that people swear by — turmeric pills, maca pills, goji berry juice powder, spirulina, kale powder — you name it.

With so many supplements out there which are simply gimmicks, it’s tricky knowing the good ones from the useless ones.

Well, we asked four health experts which supplements they actually use and recommend, and importantly, in what circumstance you truly require them.

According to Alexandra Parker and Anna Debenham, accredited practising dietitians from The Biting Truth, the first and best way to get nutrients is from your food.

“As dietitians who focus on wholefoods for optimal nutrition and wellbeing, vitamins and micronutrient supplementation are not generally our initial recommendation,” Parker told The Huffington Post Australia.
Get your nutrients from whole foods first, then supplement if required.
“Food first, always. Food provides vitamins in the most biologically available form, in the right quantities and combined with other complementary nutrients.”

“We’re big believers that if you’re otherwise healthy, a healthy eating pattern should never be replaced by a supplement. More and more often we’re seeing people who are eating a poor diet, drinking and smoking, and believe everything will be okay if they take a supplement.”

Pharmacist and personal trainer Holly Vogt, The Fit Pharmacist, agrees.

“Vitamin supplements should not be used as a substitute for a balanced diet and if you do take them, make sure you do not exceed your daily requirement. Choosing a good health supplement should be an informed and wise decision,” Vogt said.

Food first, always. Food provides vitamins in the most biologically available form, in the right quantities and combined with other complementary nutrients.

Although supplements may be marketed as ‘magic bullets’, unfortunately they don’t provide equal nutrients to those found in foods, nor do they counteract a poor diet.

“A piece of fresh fruit, for example, contains antioxidants, phytochemicals, fibre and many other nutrients that do not make it into the vitamin jar but play a huge role in our health,” Debenham told HuffPost Australia.

“Saying that, there is a time and a place for supplements and there’s good evidence to suggest that if a vitamin or mineral supplement replaces a deficiency, it will have beneficial outcomes. But aside from a few specific groups of people and situations, most people who eat a balanced diet have no need for supplementation.”

Who needs supplementation?

The main instances and stages of life where people may need to genuinely supplement is when food alone is simply not enough to meet an individual’s nutrient needs, and supplementation becomes integral to that person’s wellbeing. Some examples include:

  • Those trying to conceive and pregnant women (one month prior to conception and three months after) — folate has been shown to reduce risk of neural tube defects.
  • People on a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, and elderly people who may be eating poorly and/or absorbing less from their food — iron, and vitamin B12 as this is found almost exclusively in animal products.
  • People with an allergy or intolerance such as lactose intolerance — calcium
  • Autoimmune disease e.g. Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis or coeliac disease — supplementation may be required at some stage to correct any nutrient deficiencies.
  • People who did not receive enough sunlight (e.g. bed bound, elderly, covered/veiled women and men) — vitamin D
  • Following a course of antibiotics — probiotics may be beneficial in restoring gut health after a round of antibiotic treatment.
  • People with specific hormonal imbalances such as PCOS.
  • – Parker and Debenham.

“It is important to note that we all have specific nutritional requirements and health concerns at different stages of life, and it is ideal to choose supplements that target those specific needs,” Vogt said.

So, how do you tell when you need to supplement?

“If you are fatigued, training hard, have a restricted diet or limited food options available, say, when you are travelling, this is a good time for supps,” celebrity trainer Tegan Haining said.

“When it comes to supplements, it’s often difficult to decipher which protein powder, omega 3 oil or multivitamin to trust. It’s very important to understand that supplements should not be a free-for-all,” Parker explained.

These Are The Supplements Health Experts Actually Recommend

“It’s best to avoid going to the supermarket or searching online when you don’t know what you’re looking for or if you’re self-diagnosing.

“Blood tests can be useful, however are not always necessary. We highly recommend speaking to your doctor or accredited practising dietitian to determine your need for supplementation.”

On top of this, not all supplements are required to be taken long term and dosages will vary depending on your specific needs.

“Some supplements have adverse effects, like toxicity or interference with nutrient absorption when taken in excess. For example, vitamin A, B or zinc,” Parker said.

A few key things to consider when purchasing supplements:

  • Start out with the low dosage recommendation first and increase as required.
  • Look for supplements without added fillers, colours or unnecessary ingredients.
  • Think of supplementation as an investment to your health and always choose quality. Try not to choose a product for its logo, price or marketing.
  • Ensure you continue to eat real food.

– Parker and Debenham.

Here are five supplements health experts actually use.

1. Fish oil

“One of the key nutrients many of us don’t get enough of is long chain omega 3 fats (which are found naturally in oily fish, for example, salmon),” Debenham told HuffPost Australia.
“There is solid evidence to show that omega 3 fatty acids are necessary for a healthy heart and brain, and play a role in reducing inflammation throughout the body.”

Fish oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

“We cannot produce these in our bodies so it is essential that we receive them through our diet or supplementation,” Vogt said. “Ensure that you choose a supplement with a high concentration of EPA and DHA, and one that has purity and sustainability certifications.”
“I also like cod liver oil tablets, which are high in Vitamin D and A,” Haining added.

Flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts and chia seeds are other good sources of omega 3s.

2. Probiotics
Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria that line our digestive tracts and support our body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection.

“I always take a probiotic to ensure my gut health,” Haining said.
“There is mounting scientific evidence to show that the health of our gut directly affects our immune system. Taking a daily probiotic can be a simple way to help keep your gut healthy and your immune system strong,” Parker said.

“Whether you take it as a capsule, drink or powder, the choice is yours. If you’ve taken a course of antibiotics, supplementing with probiotics will also be beneficial to your gut.”

It’s important to note that there are different types of strains of probiotics, Vogt explained.

“Certain strains of probiotics support immunity, others digestion, and some even help to regulate weight and balance hormones,” Vogt said.

Kombucha, yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh all contain probiotics.

3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for strong bones, muscular and overall health.

“Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient and is one of the 24 micronutrients essential for human survival. Due to the increasing rates of vitamin D deficiency and the implications, supplementation is encouraged if optimal levels are not present in the body,” Vogt said.

“Most of us probably get enough vitamin D from the sun during the summer months (you only need about 15-20 mins of exposure). However, during winter, if you tend to spend a lot of time indoors, some of us may benefit from a vitamin D supplement,” Parker added.

4. Magnesium
Magnesium is an important nutrient which plays a role in hundreds of enzymatic bodily reactions, including metabolising food, synthesis of fatty acids and proteins, and transmission of nerve impulses.

“Magnesium is also great to take in the evening for a better night’s sleep and managing stress levels,” Haining said.

5. Protein
While most people can obtain adequate protein through their diet (it’s found in both plant-based foods and meat), select population groups can benefit from protein supplementation — namely athletes or those who have an intense training regime.

“When it comes to muscle gain and fat loss, protein is the king of nutrients. Protein has been proven to help weight loss by boosting metabolism and reducing hunger and appetite,” Vogt said.

“Whey protein is ideal, however if you have issues with lactose intolerance, then plant-based proteins are still highly effective.”

 

By Juliette Steen          10/01/2017


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The Power of Flowers May Ease Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Participating in a flower-arranging course may improve both pain and psychiatric symptoms for patients with fibromyalgia, new research suggests.

The findings highlight the potential benefits of floristry as occupational therapy to improve the quality of life of patients with fibromyalgia.

Coinvestigator Howard Amital, MD, head of the Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, and professor of medicine at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Israel, noted that flower arranging is particularly effective because it’s a “multistimulation therapy.”

It affects different senses that “all coincide and produce a very positive effect on the patient,” Amital told Medscape Medical News.

He added that it’s important for clinicians to hear about nonpharmacologic therapies for fibromyalgia, which is why he sought to have the study published in a medical journal.

The findings were published online in the July issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal.

Creating Bouquets

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic, widespread pain and fatigue and is often accompanied by somatic syndromes such as irritable bowel and migraines. Patients may also present with mood and anxiety disorders.

Worldwide, fibromyalgia affects 2% to 4% of the population. It mostly affects women.

Little is known about the pathogenesis of the syndrome, so treatments primarily focus on alleviating pain and improving quality of life. Experts recommend a multimodel approach that includes aerobic exercise and cognitive-behavioral therapy in addition to pharmacologic regimes.

The current observational study included 61 adult female patients (mean age, 51 years) who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

The women completed a 12-week flower design course that included weekly sessions under the supervision of a trained florist. The participants learned to create flower bouquets that they could take home.

Two consecutive groups participated in the study. The first group participated from week 1 to week 12, and the second, from week 12 to week 24.

At baseline, 12 weeks, and at study completion (week 24), the researchers measured a number of fibromyalgia disease-activity indices. Assessment tools included the 36-item Short Form Survey (SF-36), the Brief Pain Impact Questionnaire (BPI), the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), tender-point count, and the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ).

The study also assessed depression, using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), and anxiety, using the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA).

The two groups were similar with regard to mental and physical health at baseline, but the VAS score was significantly higher in group 1, the first group to complete the course, than in group 2 (mean, 8 vs 7, respectively; P = .01).

There were no between-group differences in use of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or pregabalin (Lyrica, PF Prism CV). However, the participants in group 1 reported significantly higher use of cannabis (46.7% vs 13.3%; P = .010).

‘Quite Amazing’

Results showed statistically significant improvements in the SF-36 physical and mental health components, VAS scores, FIQ scores, and HAMA and HDRS scores for the entire study population (all, P < .05), which Amital said is “quite amazing.”

However, tender-point counts remained unaffected, which was not surprising, Amital noted. Tender points “are not discriminatory enough” and reflect a limited aspect of the syndrome, which also includes unrefreshing sleep, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, he added.

When evaluating the groups separately, the researchers found a significant improvement in all study measures except tender-point count during the course. There was a slight decline in improvement in group 1 after their course ended (weeks 12 to 24), but the measurements did not return to starting levels.

“These study participants still kept the positive effect,” said Amital.

However, he added that, as with any intervention, especially for patients with fibromyalgia, “you need to do maintenance” to preserve the optimal effect.

Participating in a floristry course combines art therapy with exposure to a natural element, flowers, both of which have been shown to be beneficial.

For example, studies have shown that self-expression through creative art therapy alleviates psychiatric symptoms for patients presenting with trauma and depression. Engaging with natural elements — for example, flowers and houseplants indoors and parks and forests outdoors — is believed to promote relaxation, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and improve stress levels and mood.

Amital is now planning to start a flower arranging course for patients with fibromyalgia and other rheumatic conditions at the Sheba Medical Center, which is the largest hospital in Israel.

“I thought it would be a good platform to show that even though it’s a bit different from the conventional way of education and thinking that we physicians are usually exposed to, it does have a positive effect and has no side effects,” he said.

Shows Promise

Commenting on the findings for Medscape Medical News, Clayton Jackson, MD, former president of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management and clinical assistant professor of family medicine and psychiatry, University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Memphis, noted that the study had some limitations, including its small size and its observational, nonblinded design.

However, he said the intervention shows promise, and the results “add to the evidence base that there are multiple interventions that can be helpful for patients with chronic pain.”

Jackson, who was not involved with the research, stressed that fibromyalgia is “particularly problematic” with respect to symptom relief.

“This study is interesting because it’s a non-opioid and nonpharmacological approach to a difficult pain management problem in patients with fibromyalgia,” Jackson said. “Anything nonpharmacological that can be shown to work is incredibly interesting because it might have implications for other pain syndromes.”

Unlike other types of occupational therapy, floral design “might be multisensory in its effect” in fibromyalgia, Jackson added.

“There’s social contact, there’s visual stimulation from the flowers, there’s tactile stimulation of arranging in certain ways, and then there’s potentially an element of aromatherapy, because flowers are aromatic,” he said.

One theory of pain is that “pleasant sensory experiences may help to block unpleasant sensory experiences,” said Jackson.

Amital and Jackson have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Pauline Anderson
August 19, 2019

 

flowers

These 5 tropical plants may ‘provide anticancer benefits’

In a recent study, scientists identified several tropical plants that have anticancer properties.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore, Department of Pharmacy (NUS Pharmacy) spent 3 years investigating the pharmacological properties of local plants.

They found that three species were particularly effective at inhibiting the growth of several cancers, and they have now published their findings in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Despite the widespread use of modern medicine in Singapore, there is a tradition of using local plants to treat various conditions, including cancer.

Cancer is the current leading cause of death in Singapore, where 1 out of every 4–5 people develop the condition at some point in their lives.

A 2017 report by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board stated that the number of people who receive a cancer diagnosis will continue to rise, but that the number of people who survive will also increase as medical technology and cancer care improve.

Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore and Malaysia, are undergoing rapid urbanization that is transforming their landscape and culture. Because there is a lack of scientific evidence around the medicinal properties of local plants, the NUS Pharmacy team recognized an urgent need to document any health benefits these plants may provide before the knowledge is lost.

Evidence of anticancer benefits in 5 plants

The team focused on seven plants that people have used as traditional medicines for cancer. They were:

• Bandicoot Berry (Leea indica)
• Sabah Snake Grass (Clinacanthus nutans)
• Fool’s Curry Leaf (Clausena lansium)
• Seven Star Needle (Pereskia bleo)
• Black Face General (Strobilanthes crispus)
• South African Leaf (Vernonia amygdalina)
• Simpleleaf Chastetree (Vitex trifolia)

In the study, the team prepared extracts of “fresh,” “healthy,” and “mature” leaves from these plants and examined their effects on cells from breast, ovarian, uterine, cervical, leukemia, liver, and colon cancers.

Bandicoot Berry, South African Leaf, and Simpleleaf Chastetree had an anticancer effect against all seven types of cancer, according to the researchers. Fool’s Curry Leaf and Black Face General also had protective properties against some cancer cells.

Interestingly, the team found that Sabah Snake Grass was not effective at preventing the growth of cancerous cells, despite many people with cancer in the region using it.

The authors hypothesize that people commonly use Sabah Snake Grass as a traditional medicine because it offers some kind of benefit to people with cancer other than killing cancerous cells.

Implications for new cancer therapies

“Medicinal plants have been used for the treatment of diverse ailments since ancient times,” says lead study author Koh Hwee Ling, “but their anticancer properties have not been well studied.”

“Our findings provide new scientific evidence for the use of traditional herbs for cancer treatment, and pave the way for the development of new therapeutic agents.”

Koh and colleagues add that further research is required to identify the active compounds that provide the anticancer effects associated with these plants. They also caution against people with cancer attempting to self-medicate using these plants without first consulting their doctor.

Recently, Medical News Today looked at some other studies that evaluated the anticancer properties of plants. One of these was a 15-year-long study into a small flowering plant called the Madagascar periwinkle.

Scientists have been aware for more than 60 years that this plant has beneficial properties for people with cancer, but until recently, they had been unable to fully understand or replicate its mechanism of action.

Earlier this month, MNT looked at a study that found that medicinal herbs grown in Mauritius contain chemical compounds that may help treat esophageal cancer.

The authors of that study argued that maintaining global biodiversity is key to ensuring the discovery and development of breakthrough therapies now and in the future.

 

Monday 27 May 2019       By David McNamee
Fact checked by Jasmin Collier


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This Common Food Doubles Weight Loss

The food signals the body to start burning fat and stop storing it.

Around 3 servings of yoghurt each day can double weight loss, research finds.

People in the study who ate yoghurt lost twice as much body fat as those that did not.

Yoghurt is rich in calcium, which is thought to aid weight loss.

Calcium signals the body to start burning fat and stop storing it.

Dieters taking calcium lost 81 percent more belly fat.

Belly fat is particularly dangerous, with strong links to heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.

Professor Michael Zemel, the study’s first author, said:

“Not only did yogurt help the study participants lose more weight–the average weight loss was 13 pounds–they were about twice as effective at maintaining lean muscle mass.
This is a critical issue when dieting — you want to lose fat, not muscle.
Muscle helps burn calories, but it is often compromised during weight loss.”

The study included 34 obese people who were all put on a calorie-restricted diet.

Their diet was restricted by 500 calories each day.

Half of them were given 500mg of calcium per day as a supplement, while the other group were given 1,100mg plus three servings of low-fat yoghurt.

The results showed that those taking the higher dose of calcium lost 22 percent more weight, 61 percent more body fat and 81 percent more belly fat.

Professor Zemel said:

“The moral of the calcium story is to not dump dairy when you’re dieting.
Not only is it critical to keep your calcium levels high so you won’t lose bone density, it will also help you maintain your muscle mass and increase your fat loss.
A diet rich in low fat dairy foods, like yogurt, can help make your weight loss efforts easier.”

About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.


He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do

The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity (Zemel et al., 2005).

source: PsyBlog

What are the best breakfasts for losing weight?

Some people believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that eating breakfast increases weight loss. But is this true? And, if so, which are the best breakfast foods for weight loss?

There is little evidence to support the idea that eating breakfast can increase weight loss. Breakfast is just another meal. That said, eating breakfast can give a person energy for the day. This may reduce the risk of overeating and, in this way, support weight loss efforts.

This article explores the best breakfast foods to eat to aid weight loss. It also discusses breakfast options to suit vegetarian, vegan, and restricted diets. Read on to learn all there is to know about eating breakfast and losing weight.

Breakfast food tips

To get the most out of breakfast, it is best to eat nutrient dense foods. These foods offer more nutritional value per calorie, which may help a person feel fuller longer.

Here are some breakfast food tips that may support weight loss:

Eat fiber-rich foods

People who regularly eat fiber-rich breakfasts may have less visceral fat and inflammation.
People trying to lose weight may benefit from eating fiber-rich foods for breakfast and throughout the day.

A 2015 study found that diets rich in fiber helped people lose more weight and improved symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for diabetes.

Other studies link fiber to better health and more weight loss. For example, a 2012 study found that adolescents who ate more fiber had less visceral fat and less inflammation.

Eat more protein

Eating more protein for breakfast or at any other time of day may support weight loss.

Numerous studies link higher protein diets to more weight loss. A 2014 analysis suggests that protein may help people feel fuller, reducing overeating. People may also burn more calories when they eat protein.

Protein-rich foods are generally rich in other nutrients, allowing a person to get a wide range of nutrients without consuming lots of calories.

Avoid high calorie options

Try to avoid foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Reducing calorie intake at breakfast time and throughout the day may help a person lose weight.

To cut down on calories, avoid adding sugar to breakfast foods. A healthy oatmeal breakfast can become a sugar-laden, high calorie meal when a person adds lots of brown sugar. Select cereals that contain less sugar and avoid pancakes and pastries that contain lots of sugar.

Avoid sugary drinks

Be mindful of the role of drinks in calorie content. A glass of orange juice typically contains more than 100 calories but offers little nutritional value. Opt for eating the whole fruit rather than drinking juices.

Eat whole foods

Eating whole foods instead of processed foods may help a person lose weight. Try replacing white bread, pasta, and bagels with whole grain options.

Whole grain offers more nutritional value and may reduce the risk of some types of heart disease. Because whole grains are rich in fiber, they may support weight loss and reduce constipation.

Should you eat breakfast?

With interest in intermittent fasting increasing, some people are now opting to skip breakfast altogether. But does skipping breakfast support weight loss?

Not eating breakfast may support weight loss because it means a person goes longer without consuming calories, which may lead to a lower total calorie intake throughout the day.

However, skipping breakfast may not support weight loss for everyone. For some people, skipping breakfast leads to overeating at lunchtime. In this way, skipping breakfast may lead to higher overall calorie consumption, undermining weight loss.

Research around breakfast and weight loss is inconclusive. A 2019 BMJ meta-analysis and systematic review suggests that skipping breakfast may support weight loss. Examining 13 trials, researchers found that not eating breakfast offered modest decreases in weight.

However, the study’s authors also note that the data is not strong. Other factors might account for the difference. Scientists need to do more research to fully understand whether avoiding breakfast is an effective weight loss strategy.

Breakfast foods for vegans

Peanut butter on toast is a healthful breakfast choice for vegans trying to lose weight.
As for all people, it is essential for people who follow a vegan diet to consume sufficient protein. Consuming protein helps people to feel full, which may support weight loss.

Vegan breakfast foods may be a healthful option for anyone wanting to limit meat consumption or add variety to their diet. Also, eating more vegetables increases a person’s fiber and nutrient intake.

Many vegan breakfast options are rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Here are some vegan breakfast foods to try:

  • vegan scramble (using tofu instead of eggs) and kale, broccoli, or spinach
  • peanut or almond butter on whole grain toast
  • oatmeal with blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries and an optional teaspoon of honey
  • whole grain cereal with soy or almond milk
  • avocado toast on whole wheat bread, seasoned with lemon juice and sea salt
  • tofu omelet
  • vegan BLT made from soy bacon, lettuce, tomato, and whole grain buns
  • mixed nuts
  • rolled oats with peanut butter
  • smoothie with avocado, banana, frozen berries, and a teaspoon of honey

Breakfast foods for vegetarians

Vegetarians can choose from a wide variety of delicious breakfast foods. Adding dairy products makes it easy to get plenty of protein to support weight loss.

A 2011 study compared the diet of vegetarians to nonvegetarians. Researchers found that vegetarian diets were more nutritionally dense. This may be because vegetarians eat more fruits and vegetables than meat eaters. The study’s authors also suggest that a vegetarian diet may support weight loss.

Here are some vegetarian breakfast ideas:

  • whole grain cereal with 1% milk
  • Greek yogurt with berries
  • plain vanilla yogurt with bananas
  • two slices of white cheddar cheese with a handful of mixed nuts
  • hard boiled egg sprinkled with salt
  • avocado with cottage cheese and hot sauce
  • poached eggs on whole grain toast
  • scrambled eggs with hot sauce instead of cheese or salt

Breakfast foods for meat eaters

While meat is high in many nutrients, it is also a high calorie food due to its fat content. Lean meats and poultry contain less fat and calories than red meats, so choosing these types of meat is a good option for meat eaters hoping to lose weight.

Reducing the amount of meat in each meal and replacing it with nutrient-rich, high fiber vegetables may also help.

The following meals can support healthy weight loss:

  • grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce on whole grain bread
  • Canadian bacon with yogurt or eggs
  • turkey sausage scramble with lots of vegetables

Breakfast for people with dietary restrictions

Having allergies or an underlying health condition need not affect a person’s enjoyment of breakfast. There are plenty of alternatives available.

Here are some breakfast options for people with dietary restrictions:

Food allergies

Many people have food allergies or sensitivities to lactose, nuts, and eggs, which many breakfast foods contain. Fortunately, there are many substitute options available:

  • Lactose intolerance: Lactose free milk and milk substitutes, such as almond milk, can be good options for people with lactose intolerance.
  • Nut allergies: Lentils, chia seeds, and quinoa can be healthful options for people with nut allergies.
  • Egg allergies: People who cannot eat eggs should consider lean meats, nut butter, and nuts instead.
  • Celiac disease

For people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, finding breakfast options that do not contain gluten is essential.

Many food stores sell gluten free versions of common breakfast items, including:

  • bagels
  • pancakes
  • cereals
  • Another gluten free breakfast idea involves serving high protein foods, such as eggs or lean meats, with wilted spinach and cooked tomatoes.

Diabetes
People with diabetes can eat hard boiled eggs for breakfast to manage their blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes must keep their blood sugar levels consistent. Skipping breakfast may not be healthful for people with diabetes, particularly if they take medication for their condition. People who take medication for their diabetes typically need to consume some carbohydrate to manage their blood sugar levels.

Here are some breakfast options for people with diabetes:

  • scrambled eggs with wilted spinach
  • hard boiled eggs
  • a handful of nuts
  • lean meats with spinach or kale

Summary
Breakfast habits can support weight loss but how this works varies from person to person. Eating breakfast may aid weight loss for some people as they stay fuller for longer, which prevents snacking during the day. For others, skipping breakfast supports weight loss because it leads them to consume fewer calories overall.

Losing weight requires a person to burn fewer calories than they eat. To sustain weight loss, a person must stick to a reduced calorie diet and pair this diet with more activity. To make sustainable dietary changes, it is vital that a person finds healthful foods they enjoy eating.

Highly restrictive diets are often difficult to follow. Instead, incorporate a few treats and find nourishing, low calorie foods that taste good. A dietitian or doctor can help a person develop the right meal plan for their needs



Last reviewed Mon 9 September 2019
By Zawn Villines 
Reviewed by Miho Hatanaka, RDN, LD


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Optimists For The Win: Finding The Bright Side Might Help You Live Longer

Good news for the cheery: A Boston study published this month suggests people who tend to be optimistic are likelier than others to live to be 85 years old or more.

That finding was independent of other factors thought to influence life’s length — such as “socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration, and health behaviors,” the researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health say. Their work appears in a recent issue of the science journal PNAS.

A Brighter Outlook Could Translate To A Longer Life

“We wanted to consider, in the current issue, benefits of psychological resources like optimism as possible new targets for promoting healthy aging,” says Lewina Lee, who headed the study. She’s a clinical research psychologist at Boston University. “The more we know about ways to promote healthy aging the better.”

Researchers already knew from previous work that optimistic individuals tend to have a reduced risk of depression, heart disease and other chronic diseases. But might optimism also be linked to exceptional longevity? Lee looked at medical records from two long term research studies — one involving female nurses and the other involving men, mostly veterans.

The study included 69,744 women and 1,429 men. Both groups completed survey measures to assess their level of optimism, as well as their overall health and health habits such as diet, smoking and alcohol use. In the survey, study participants were asked if they agreed with statements such as “in uncertain times I usually expect the best” or “I usually expect to succeed in things that I do.”

Health outcomes from women in the study were tracked for 10 years, while the men’s health was followed for 30 years. Researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11-15% longer lifespan, and had far greater odds of reaching 85 years old, compared to the least optimistic group.

Now, researchers say they can’t tell from this study how optimism might affect longevity. Optimistic people might be more motivated to try to maintain good health — such as maintaining a decent diet, engaging in regular exercise and not smoking.

They may also be better at regulating stress, Lee says.The burden of unrelieved stress is well known to have negative effects on health, including an increase in heart disease, liver disease and gastrointestinal problems.

Clinical health psychologist Natalie Dattilo, with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says even if it doesn’t come naturally, optimism can be taught. In her practice she works mostly with adults who struggle with depression and anxiety — “a lot of folks who worry,” she says. Many are pessimistic and “tend to see things through a half empty glass and typically expect negative outcomes.”

In treatment, Dattilo works to expand their world view, so their set of assumptions about the world and themselves are more uplifting and empowering.

“We examine their thinking under a psychological microscope,” Dattilo says, discussing why they anticipate a particular negative outcome. “If we can look at that together, we can begin to uncover systems of beliefs and assumptions people are making about themselves in their lives and we can begin to change those.”

Dattilo challenges patients to pay attention when a negative outlook kicks in, and consciously shift it. “Just try it on, try on a different thought, attitude or mindset and play that out and just see what happens,” she advises.

 

Also, she emphasizes, optimism isn’t simply the absence of depression or sadness or stress.

“People who think in optimistic ways are still prone to stress,” she says. “They are functioning in our society, meeting demands, prone to burn out. And it’s not like negative events won’t happen.”

But the way they cope with problems makes a difference, she says. Difficulties don’t tend to cause them distress for extended periods of time.

“Resilience is our ability to bounce back, to recover,” she says. “And what this study shows is that optimism actually plays a very big role in our ability to bounce — even if we experience setbacks.”

So, are gloomy curmudgeons doomed to short, brutish lives, even if they are content to be pessimistic? Some people find eternal optimists insufferable.

Lewina Lee says she treats pessimistic patients “all the time.” While some seem satisfied with their outlook, others are more open to lightening up, once they know how, in order to achieve goals that are important to them.

“I would try to challenge their negativity and shake it loose,” she says, and get rid of some of the patients’ more rigidly held beliefs for their own benefit.

Pessimists who try this will likely end up happier, she suggests. And they might even extend their lives.

   September 1, 2019
source: www.npr.org


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5 Reasons People Have Low Self-Confidence

Understanding the causes of low self-confidence is a first step in boosting it.

The most important thing to know about low self-confidence is that it is not your fault.

The factors that contribute to low self-confidence combine and interact differently for each person. Your genes, cultural background, childhood experiences, and other life circumstances all play a role. But don’t lose heart — although we can’t change the experiences in our past that shaped us, there is plenty we can do to alter our thoughts and expectations to gain more confidence.

Genes and Temperament

Some of what molds our self-confidence is built into our brains at birth. I mention these factors not to overwhelm you, but to let you know that you shouldn’t blame yourself for your self-image.

Studies have shown our genetic makeup affects the amount of certain confidence-boosting chemicals our brain can access. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness, and oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” can both be inhibited by certain genetic variations. Somewhere between 25 to 50 percent of the personality traits linked to confidence may be inherited.

Some aspects of our behavior also stem from our temperament. If you’re naturally more hesitant and watchful, especially in unfamiliar circumstances, you may have a tendency called “behavioral inhibition.” When you’re confronted with a situation, you stop and check to see if everything seems the way you expected it to be. If something appears awry, you’re likely to move away from the situation.

Behavioral inhibition is not all bad. We need some people in the world who don’t impulsively jump into every situation. If you’re a cautious and reserved person, self-confidence may have eluded you. But once you understand yourself and the tools in this book, you’ll be able to work with your temperament and not fight it.

Life Experiences

A number of individual experiences can lead to feeling completely unsure of yourself or even worthless. Here, I’ll discuss a few.

Trauma. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can all significantly affect our feelings of self-worth. If you find yourself replaying memories of abuse or otherwise feeling tormented by or ashamed of your experiences, please consider seeking treatment from a licensed clinician.


Parenting style. The way we were treated in our family of origin can affect us long after childhood. For instance, if you had a parent who constantly belittled you, compared you to others, or told you that you would never amount to anything, you likely carry those messages with you today. A parent’s struggles with mental health and substance abuse can also change your relationship with the world.

Bullying, harassment and humiliation. Childhood bullying can leave a mark on your confidence when it comes to looks, intellectual and athletic abilities, and other areas of your life. Humiliating experiences in adulthood, including workplace harassment or a peer group that disrespects or demeans you, can also make you less willing to speak up for yourself or pursue ambitious goals.


Gender, race, and sexual orientation. Scores of studies show women are socialized to worry more about how they’re perceived and, therefore, to take fewer risks. Racial and cultural background and sexual orientation can make a difference, too. If you’ve been on the receiving end of discrimination, you may have internalized some negative, untrue messages about your potential and whether you “belong.”

Misinformation

Lack of self-confidence can come from not knowing the “rules” of the confidence game. For example, if we think we have to feel confident in order to act confidently, we set ourselves up for failure.

Perfectionism is another form of faulty thinking that contributes to low self-confidence. If we believe we have to have something all figured out before we take action, those thoughts can keep us from doing the things we value. Even learning and understanding what confidence is and isn’t is a big step toward boosting it.

The World Around Us

Many media messages are designed to make us feel lacking. Companies that want to sell you products usually start by making you feel bad about yourself, often by introducing a “problem” with your body that you would never have noticed otherwise. (The movie Mean Girls memorably skewered this idea: The main character, new to American high-school culture after years of homeschooling in Africa, is bewildered when her new clique stands around a mirror criticizing themselves. “My hairline is so weird,” says one. “My nail beds suck!” proclaims another.)

Now that social media has become ubiquitous, the messages hit closer to home. It’s easy to believe that everyone around you has the perfect marriage, a dream career, and supermodel looks to boot. But remember: What people post online is heavily curated and edited. Everyone has bad days, self-doubt, and physical imperfections. They just don’t trot them out on Facebook!

     “One reason we struggle with insecurity: We’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” —Steven Furtick

Anxiety and Depression

It’s common for anxiety and depression to go hand-in-hand with self-confidence issues. If you’ve already been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression and are working with a therapist, you could bring in your workbook and perhaps go through it together. It’s brave of you to address your self-assurance stumbling blocks, and building confidence will also help you lessen anxiety and depression.

Questions to Consider:

Which of the contributing factors described in this section resonate the most with you?

What specific experiences in your life do you think had the biggest negative effects on your self-confidence?

Next Steps:

1. Take this self-confidence quiz. Self-confidence begins with knowing yourself. You might also enjoy spending some time answering these questions designed to help increase your confidence level.

2. Learn why self-confidence is so important. Start here.

3. Avoid these self-confidence traps (“13 Things the Most Confident People You Know Never Do”).

4. Try these four proven approaches to increase your confidence level.

Adapted from The Self-Confidence Workbook: 
A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem.
Copyright © 2018 by Barbara Markway and Celia Ampel.
 
About the Authors
Barbara Markway, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience. 
She is the author of four psychology books and has been featured in media nationwide.
 
In Print:
The Self Confidence Workbook: 
A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem
Online: Dr. Markway online
  
Greg Markway, Ph.D., is a psychologist and has coauthored three books, including Painfully Shy.
In Print:
Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life
Dec 07, 2018