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Why you might be happier if you don’t buy anything in Cyber Week

I delight in finding the perfect gift for a loved one and experience joy in thoughtful personal purchases. But I bristle against spending for the sake of spending, especially for manufactured “holidays” like Black Friday.

Decisions about dollars are complicated. “The consumer dilemma is the idea that the planet clearly needs us to reduce our consumption, but our economy needs us to consume more and more every year,” said James MacKinnon, author of “The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves.”

The pandemic revealed how vulnerable our economic system is to any kind of disturbance in people’s appetite to shop, MacKinnon noted. “We have created a system that is dependent on us acting as consumers. It’s almost as though it limits our freedoms to choose how we want to live and determines what our social role will be.”

There may be financial circumstances that drive a person’s need to make purchases on big sale days, but if you experience the financial freedom that allows you to spend, you might even be happier if you don’t buy anything on Black Friday. Here are some realities to consider:

Acknowledge that biology is in play

If you are feeling bad about compulsive spending habits, you are not alone.

“One thing about Black Friday that makes it even more pernicious is that not only can shopping release dopamine in the brain’s reward pathways — hence becoming potentially addictive — it also manipulates the social herd source of dopamine,” shared Dr. Anna Lembke, psychiatrist and author of “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence.”

Lembke, who refers to smartphones as the modern-day hypodermic needle that delivers digital dopamine 24/7, noted that when people feel they belong to a tribe and share experiences and emotions with other people, dopamine is released.

“That feeling of oneness or immersion is a huge source of dopamine and also serotonin,” Lembke said. She noted that these primitive brain circuits can get in the way of the prefrontal cortex’s ability to make rational decisions, such as realizing you can’t afford to spend the money you are spending.

fomo

Skipping Black Friday shopping this year helps counteract overconsumption.

Shop with intention

If you are looking for a different tribe, an intention-based shopping herd exists.

I recently asked on Instagram Stories whether people were opting out of Black Friday shopping and if they were doing something else instead. Many people shared that they were choosing different ways to shop this holiday season.

Carolyn Kornwitz of Boston wrote that she is opting out of Black Friday and any sale shopping altogether. “I’m going to source the majority, if not all, gifts for the kids from my local Buy Nothing Facebook group, as well as secondhand stores.”

Others shared that they were focused on supporting local businesses, independent sellers on Etsy, or putting their maker skills to use. “My pandemic hobby is knitting so everyone is getting ornate hand-knit items!” wrote Anna Brakeman of Madison, Wisconsin.

MacKinnon agreed that all spending is not created equal. “There are definitely better and worse ways to consume. Support smaller scale businesses, particularly ones that don’t have shareholders to answer to … when you spend your money, spend it in your local community thoughtfully on products that will be meaningful to you or whoever you are giving to.”

Counteract overconsumption with people and experiences

Overconsumption can result from people trying to escape their circumstances, a tactic that is understandable but ultimately doesn’t work, Lembke noted. “A potential antidote is to do the opposite and deeply immerse ourselves in our lives.”

“If we really turn towards our lives everything becomes more interesting. When we reinvest in relationships and experiences, we create new energy and new meaning and it becomes transcendent,” Lembke said.

Indeed, many people shared that they were bypassing Black Friday shopping and opting for connection time in the form of hikes with family or friends, epic games of tag, pickleball, tennis, cycling, or relaxed time at home.

Others shared that they are getting into the holiday spirit through activities such as Christmas tree trimming and experiences like “The Nutcracker” at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. “My parents are in town for Thanksgiving this year. We bought tickets to a nature walk/light show at Crystal Bridges, which is an art museum near us,” shared Liz Fernandez of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Think back to lessons from last year

Evidence for non-consumerist holiday contentment may come from your own memories.

“Last year forced us to opt out of the traditional Thanksgiving thing and got us thinking this year about how we actually wanted to spend those four days off together,” wrote Kaci Lint of Mesa, Arizona. Given that she has five children, Lint noted that material items get overwhelming quickly. This Thanksgiving, her family is intentionally choosing experiences over things by traveling to camp out and watch the sunrise over the sand dunes in Utah.

MacKinnon is eager for people to shift back to the mindset that it’s enough to spend time together and concentrate on making that time a rich experience.

“Last Christmas everyone wished they could just be together; that would have been more than enough,” he said. In contrast, he noted that this season people feel like company alone is inadequate and they need to show up with armloads of gifts.

People are capable of change

One of the most dramatic and surprising observations amid the pandemic to MacKinnon was how quickly people found their way from a consumerism value system to a new value set centered on relationships, experiences and skill building.

“What we saw as people moved into quarantine and lockdown was that they turned towards other values really quickly. People reached out to old friends they had lost touch with. They were bird watching, mastering new skills, planting things. It took a matter of days for people to find their way to a new value set,” MacKinnon said.

That said, depending on the circumstances, behavioral change may take longer depending on the severity of their addiction, Lembke noted. “People need to abstain from a behavior long enough for homeostasis in the pleasure-pain system in the brain to be restored. Eventually, people will then be able to take pleasure in more modest rewards,” she said.

There is considerable work to be done to figure out the balance of consumerism as it relates to the planet and our economy, but one thing is clear: Our relationships, experiences and well-being are things worth investing in. And we don’t need to be held to a day on the calendar or a line around the block to do so.

Christine Koh is a former music and brain scientist turned author, podcaster, and creative director. You can find her work at christinekoh.com and on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @drchristinekoh.

By Christine Koh, CNN       Fri November 26, 2021


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The Dietary Change Linked To Living 5 Years Longer

Higher levels of this type of fat in the blood can add five years to your lifespan.

A study has found that raising levels of omega−3 fatty acids in blood can lower the risk of premature death similar to quitting smoking, an equivalent to adding 4.7 years of life.

Omega-3 fatty acids are well-known for their beneficial health effect, thus the American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish such as trout, salmon, sardines, and anchovies twice weekly.

For the study, researchers used the omega-3 index test to measure EPA and DHA content in red blood cells (RBC), an excellent way to predict the risk of death from all causes.

They analysed data from the Framingham Offspring Cohort study, which has tracked Massachusetts residents in the United States over 11 years.

Dr Aleix Sala-Vila, the study’s co-author, said:

“Having higher levels of these acids in the blood, as a result of regularly including oily fish in the diet, increases life expectancy by almost five years.

Being a regular smoker takes 4.7 years off your life expectancy, the same as you gain if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood.”

The study compared RBC fatty acids levels with standard risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in predicting premature death.

Some well known risk factors are age, total cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking.

The results show that four types of fatty acids, including omega-3 are better predictors of mortality risk.

trout_fish

Two of these predictors belong to saturated fatty acids which have often been associated with heart disease risk but in this study were linked to longer life.

A diet rich in omega−3 fatty acids improves the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content in erythrocytes (red blood cells) resulting in nearly 5 years of human life expansion.

Dr Sala-Vila said:

“This reaffirms what we have been seeing lately, not all saturated fatty acids are necessarily bad.”

The correct amount of dietary fatty acids may contribute considerably to individual health.

Dr Sala-Vila added:

 “What we have found is not insignificant.

It reinforces the idea that small changes in diet in the right direction can have a much more powerful effect than we think, and it is never too late or too early to make these changes.”

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 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (McBurney et al., 2021).

November 16, 2021


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Can’t Find Time For Self-Care? Try ‘Habit Stacking.’

This extremely simple productivity hack will instantly carve out time for yourself in a way you never thought of before.

Try this technique instead of making self-care an afterthought.

We live in a world where it seems like everyone is doing the most. They’re getting their work done, they’re keeping their houses clean and they’re seeing their loved ones ― all while making time to practice self-care. Seeing others “mastering” balanced lives can feel defeating, particularly when you struggle to get through even two tasks on your to-do list.

Of course, sometimes doing nothing is productive, and we all know what we see on social media isn’t always a reflection of reality. But if you are struggling to make some time for yourself, you might just need to do some strategizing.

This is where “habit stacking” comes in, a term created by author SJ Scott in his 2014 book on the topic.

Habit stacking might seem like another kitschy self-improvement hack, but it may just be the mental trick that helps you stick to your quests long term. The strategy involves listing habits you already have ― such as walking the dog or driving to work ― that are already quite easy and routine for you, and attaching new self-care methods on top of them.

Ready to try it yourself? Here’s how to make sure your habit stacking sticks:

Start by picking a small new habit

This can include anything you are hoping to improve on. It should be a self-care technique that makes you feel good, but not necessarily something you always have time to do.

The key here is to start off as granular as possible. Say you want to get some movement in, but just writing “exercise” on your to-do list seems like a lofty goal. Instead, add a workout move you’re trying to master to the end of a habit you already do each day.

Diane Boden, host of the “Minimalist Moms” podcast and author of “Minimalist Moms: Living & Parenting With Simplicity,” practices this each morning by adding pushups after the habit of brushing her teeth.

“If I already practice one behavior, why not attach another to it? The connectivity makes all the difference in maintaining new habits you’d like to develop,” she said, noting that eventually your new habit will become second nature. “Can you get yourself to a point where the habits you desire to cultivate become reflexive?”

Write out a list of everyday habits you already do, then stack them together in a way that makes sense

Mentally roll through your normal routine and jot down the automatic behaviors you do each day, like Boden with brushing her teeth. Other options can include getting out of bed, brewing coffee, changing out of work clothes or getting into bed.

Listing these on paper will help you realize the long list of possibilities and find the area of your day that works best for you. For example, Allison Chawla, a psychotherapist in New York, recommended stacking sitting down to dinner with a gratitude moment.

Other potential combinations could be something like meditate for just one minute while brewing your coffee, doing a few yoga poses immediately after changing out of your work clothes or journaling for five minutes when you get into bed.

Boden prefers to stack habits in categories, such as combining two health and fitness habits. For example, you could drink a glass of water before and after your daily walk, improving your health habits in multiple ways.

glass_water

An example of habit stacking: If you want to drink more water, set a glass by your bed to drink when you first wake up before you get out of your sheets.

Build up these combinations slowly for most success

The endgame here is for your brain to automatically associate one habit with another, so this won’t happen overnight.

And don’t try to do too much at once, either. Say you have multiple self-care habits you want to try, like journaling and meditating. What you should not do is string all these habits together or try all the combinations in one day — hence the “stacking.” Focus on making the journaling a daily routine before jumping to that and meditation.

Try not to get discouraged if it takes a long time. “It’s a lifestyle change, so people often don’t see the results they want because they are productive in one aspect but they lose that productivity in another way,” said Andre Pinesett, a physician and student productivity and performance coach.

Also keep in mind that multitasking, which research shows can be inefficient and counterproductive, is not habit stacking and is not helpful, Pinesett added. Instead of trying to do these habits at the same time (can you brush your teeth while doing a pushup?), use one as a cue for the next one to start.

Finally, make acknowledging your progress its own habit to stack

It’s essential to build in validation as its own habit as you succeed toward a greater goal of self-care. Take some time to acknowledge the work you did ― whether it be sticking to journaling before bed or your pushup after brushing your teeth. You can do this by writing it down, which often helps reinforce positive emotions.

Keep at it, and you’ll find it’s easier to prioritize yourself than you thought.

By Alexandra Frost  11/11/2021

Source: www.huffpost.com


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Think a Little Alcohol Might Be Healthy? Think Again

Wine lovers, beer drinkers and those who enjoy a martini now and then have long been told that moderate drinking beats total abstinence.

Unfortunately, new German research is throwing some cold water on that advice, finding that premature death among non-drinkers is likely the result of unrelated health problems that have little to do with the decision to forgo Chardonnay or Tanqueray.

“For many years, the belief in medical care was that low-to-moderate alcohol drinking may add to health, in particular to cardiovascular health,” said lead researcher Ulrich John.

Red wine in particular, he noted, has received a lot of attention for its purported ability to give moderate drinkers a longevity leg up over abstainers.

“This does not seem to be justified in the light of the present study,” said John, a professor emeritus of prevention research and social medicine with the Institute of Community Medicine at University Medicine Greifswald, in Germany.

Why? Because “the majority among abstainers seem to have severe risk factors in their life” that existed before any decision to not drink.

In a report published online Nov. 2 in PLOS Medicine, John and his colleagues presented results of a survey of more than 4,000 German men and women who were 18 to 64 years of age when they were interviewed between 1996 and 1997.

All were asked to reveal their drinking habits in the preceding year, along with information about their overall health history, and alcohol and drug use. Death data were available from a follow-up 20 years later.

Just over 11% said they had abstained from alcohol during the prior year. But about nine in 10 of them said they had been drinkers at one time, the findings showed. Nearly three-quarters had at least one major risk factor for early death, including risky alcohol consumption and tobacco use.

wine

Among abstainers, just over one-third said they had a prior alcohol abuse problem, while about half said they smoked daily, for instance. About 11% described their overall health status as “fair” or “poor.”

The investigators also found that premature death from cancer or heart disease was no higher among the abstainers who had no other health risk factors than it was among low-to-moderate drinkers.

“We were surprised by the large proportion of those who had former alcohol or drug use disorders among the abstainers,” John said.

But in the end, he added, “the majority of alcohol abstainers had severe health risk factors that might explain the greater likelihood to die early, in contrast to the low-to-moderate drinkers.”

John’s advice: “Please do not drink alcohol for health reasons.” If a healthy life is the goal, he added, “the optimum is not to drink alcohol.”

The findings come as little surprise to Lona Sandon, program director of the department of clinical nutrition at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

There is no compelling reason a non-drinker should start using alcohol in order to promote health or reduce risk of disease, she said.

“And for people with high risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer, any amount of alcohol is not recommended,” Sandon added.

But what about all the reported health benefits of red wine?

In an online report, the Mayo Clinic acknowledged that antioxidants in red wine may increase levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, while polyphenols such as resveratrol have been said to help limit blood vessel damage and reduce blood clotting risk.

Could that mean that red wine is the exception to the new advice? So far, the research aiming to prove as much has been inconclusive, according to the Mayo Clinic report.

And Sandon cautioned that when it comes to promoting health, “red wine does not make up for poor diet, and lack of exercise or other healthy habits.”

She recalled a client who was an avid runner.

“She wanted to lose some body fat in hopes to improve her running times,” Sandon said. “She was also drinking red wine on a near daily basis as she believed it to be a healthy habit.”

As it turned out, the woman was actually drinking the equivalent of two to three drinks a day. “At this amount, it is no longer healthy, and the extra calories were not helping her to reach her weight-loss goals,” Sandon said.

Her advice: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking red wine is the fountain of youth. It may actually do more harm than good.”

SOURCES: Ulrich John, PhD, professor emeritus, prevention research and social medicine, Institute of Community Medicine, University Medicine Greifswald, Germany; Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, LD, program director and associate professor, clinical nutrition, School of Health Professions, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; Mayo Clinic, “Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?”, Oct. 22, 2019; PLOS Medicine, Nov. 2, 2021, online

By Alan Mozes  HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) 

source: www.webmd.com


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Are You Stuck in the “I’ll Feel Better When” Cycle?

Striving for major accomplishments requires feeling satisfied along the way.

KEY POINTS

When it comes to big aspirations, it’s beneficial to reflect on the good within more minor accomplishments along the way.

Often people’s “feel better when” comes from their mind’s capacity to imagine what will happen in the future.

Know when good enough is good enough. Try not to waste energy on maximizing things that don’t matter.

We are often caught in the trap of believing that we’ll feel better at some point in the future when life circumstances change. Clients will frequently tell me (and I’ve told myself):

“I’ll feel better when…”:

  • I’m done with school
  • I find my life’s partner
  • I have a baby
  • I’m less anxious
  • I lose weight
  • This work project is done
  • The pandemic is over

But what happens when that future never arrives, or if it does, you’ve already moved on to the next “I’ll feel better when?”

Allison Briscoe-Smith described this striving as having a “bitter aftertaste” when I interviewed her for the From Striving to Thriving Summit. So what can we do instead?

Psychologically hydrate. When it comes to big aspirations, it’s beneficial to take in the good of more minor accomplishments along the way. Rick Hanson gave me this wise advice when discussing skillful versus stressful striving. Complete a small task and linger on the feeling of a job completed. By sticking with an experience of completion for a few moments, you can savor a feeling of satisfaction.

Take perspective on your self-story. Often our “feel better when” comes from our human mind’s amazing capacity to imagine. We compare ourselves to other people who we think have what we want. We imagine a “better version” of ourselves, a person who is thinner, smarter, more self-controlled. Be an observer of your imagination. What stories does your mind create about you and others? Are they helpful or harmful? Are there other perspectives you can consider?

strive-for-progress

Be a satisficer. Know when good enough is good enough. Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, has well documented that folks who are satisfied with what they have are happier in the long run than those who keep working to maximize their options. Becoming satisficer ( may bring some discomfort and Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) or Fear of a Better Option (FOBO). However, FOMO and FOBO may be a good thing when it means you are no longer wasting your precious energy on maximizing things that don’t matter to you. Some have termed this JOMO! (Joy of missing out!) Pick out the good enough outfit, select the good enough restaurant, stop at the good enough work and spend your energy enjoying the life you are in!

Attend to process over outcome. Savor what it feels like to be on the journey rather than focusing on endpoints. How does moving your body feel when you exercise? What does learning and working toward mastery feel like right now? How do curiosity and perspective-taking change your experience in relationships? Focus on the bewilderment of the process. Savoring is a crucial mindset of happier people. Your life is now. Enjoy it!

Remember, you are not a self-improvement project. It hit home for me when I first heard the term “the subtle aggression of self-improvement” by meditation teacher Bob Sharples. As a therapist, I am in the business of helping people lead rich and meaningful lives, but many times I see that this becomes a business of, “there is something wrong with you to be fixed.” I’ve become wary of self-help programs that contrast you now with the future, better you. It’s a great sales tactic to improve something that is broken, and it’s a terrible way to approach being human. You may be stuck in addiction, old relationship patterns, or anxiety, but remember, you are not broken. You are whole and always have been.

Maximize where it matters. Just because you are attending to the process, accepting yourself as you are, and allowing for good enough, it does not mean you should stop focusing on purpose-driven pursuits. I believe in putting your all into places that are meaningful to you and linked to your values. Go all out. Be a die-hard. But only … in the domains that are most important to you. Then be present in the vitality of living your values.

We don’t have to wait for a future point when we feel better to start living fully. As Steve Hayes shared with me on Psychologists Off the Clock, the goal isn’t necessarily to “feel better” but to “get better at the feeling.” Let go of the small stuff, choose your values, and play big where you care.

Journal Prompts:

Consider some tasks or relationships that are draining you. How do you know when you have done enough? What is good enough for you?

If you were to live in line with your values today, what kind of action would you take? What outcomes would you be willing to let go of?

Where do you want to maximize your efforts? What values deserve your greatest effort and energy?

About the Author
Diana Hill, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, co-author of ACT Daily Journal, and co-host of the podcast, Psychologists Off the Clock.

October 23, 2021 |  Reviewed by Vanessa Lancaster

source: www.psychologytoday.com


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Eating Chili Peppers Can Help You Live Longer, Cut Risks For Heart Disease And Cancer


DALLAS, Texas — Previous studies have shown that spicy food can have a positive impact on your health. Now, a study released by the American Heart Association has a “hot” new take on the topic. Researchers say eating chili pepper isn’t just good for your health, it can help you live longer by reducing heart disease and cancer.

The study finds consuming chili peppers cuts the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 26 percent. The odds of dying from cancer decreased by 23 percent compared to people who don’t include peppers in their diet.

One of the key findings is that chili peppers act as a natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and blood-glucose regulator. This is due to the release of capsaicin into an eater’s system. This substance gives a pepper its trademark mild to intense spicy flavor.

The international appeal of chili peppers
Researchers looked at over 4,700 studies from five major health databases to gather their data. Their final report included four large studies on the health of individuals who either did or didn’t eat chili peppers. The data examined more than 570,000 people from the United States, Italy, China, and Iran.

Overall, the report finds a 25-percent drop in all causes of death among people who include chili peppers in their diet.

“We were surprised to find that in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all cause, CVD and cancer mortality. It highlights that dietary factors may play an important role in overall health,” says senior author Bo Xu of the Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in a media release.

“The exact reasons and mechanisms that might explain our findings, though, are currently unknown. Therefore, it is impossible to conclusively say that eating more chili pepper can prolong life and reduce deaths, especially from cardiovascular factors or cancer. More research, especially evidence from randomized controlled studies, is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.”

Dr. Xu adds these findings have some limitations because the respondents ate different amount and various types of chili peppers. This makes determining if a specific variety or serving size is better for a patient’s health.

The study is being presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020.

by Chris Melore NOVEMBER 13, 2020

Source: www.studyfinds.org/eat-chili-peppers-live-longer/


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The Fruit That Boosts Weight Loss And Reduces Fat Absorption

A weight loss fruit that makes you feel full, improves your gut health, and reduces absorption of fats.

Having an avocado every day as part of your diet will increase healthy gut bacteria and reduce the absorption of fat.

The fruit is rich in fibre and monounsaturated fat, a healthy fat that lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood.

A study by Ahmed et al. (2019) suggests that avocados contain a fat molecule that could help prevent diabetes and maintain a healthy weight by improving blood glucose levels, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.

A new study has found that people who eat avocados have higher levels of gut microbes responsible for breaking down fibres and producing a number of metabolites (short-chain fatty acids) that improve gut health.

Ms Sharon Thompson, the study’s first author, said:

“We know eating avocados helps you feel full and reduces blood cholesterol concentration, but we did not know how it influences the gut microbes, and the metabolites the microbes produce.

Microbial metabolites are compounds the microbes produce that influence health.

Avocado consumption reduced bile acids and increased short chain fatty acids.

These changes correlate with beneficial health outcomes.”

Bile acids are produced by the liver, stored in the gallbladder, and released into the intestine for breaking down fats from foods we eat.

Western diets are higher in fats causing more production of bile acids which can alert the gut microbiota population and cause intestinal inflammation.

The study recruited 163 overweight or obese participants and divided them into two groups receiving a normal diet.

The only difference was that one ate fresh avocados (175 g for men or 140 g for women) as part of a meal every day for 12 weeks and the other group had a similar diet but no avocados.

avocado-toast

Dr Hannah Holscher, study co-author, said:

“Our goal was to test the hypothesis that the fats and the fiber in avocados positively affect the gut microbiota.

We also wanted to explore the relationships between gut microbes and health outcomes.

Despite avocados being high in fat, the avocado group absorbed less fat compared to the other group.”

Dr Holscher said:

“Greater fat excretion means the research participants were absorbing less energy from the foods that they were eating.

This was likely because of reductions in bile acids, which are molecules our digestion system secretes that allow us to absorb fat.

We found that the amount of bile acids in stool was lower and the amount of fat in the stool was higher in the avocado group.”

Types of fats found in foods affect the gut microbiome differently, for example, avocados contain monounsaturated fats which are considered heart-healthy.

On top of that, avocados are high in soluble fibre: an average avocado contains 12 g of fibres which is a big portion of the daily recommended fibre intake (28 to 34 g).

Dr Holscher said:

“Less than 5% of Americans eat enough fiber.

Most people consume around 12 to 16 grams of fiber per day.

Thus, incorporating avocados in your diet can help get you closer to meeting the fiber recommendation.

Eating fiber isn’t just good for us; it’s important for the microbiome, too.

We can’t break down dietary fibers, but certain gut microbes can.

When we consume dietary fiber, it’s a win-win for gut microbes and for us.”

People shouldn’t worry that avocados are high in calories as it is more important that it is a nutrient-dense food that contains micronutrients like fibre and potassium that we don’t get enough of.

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 of Nutrition (Thompson et al., 2020).

source: PsyBlog   October 7, 2021


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Which Bread Is Best For You — Whole-Grain, Multigrain or Whole Wheat?

Hint: Check the label first and foremost

Gone are the days of eating white bread. Many people are aware that whole-grain has more nutritional heft than white, fluffy, overly milled breads, but it’s not always easy to pick a good loaf when you’re at the grocery store.

Sometimes, a refined loaf of bread can masquerade as something more nutritious. Patrol the bread aisle and you’ll see terms like whole wheat, multigrain, seven-grain, 12-grain, all-natural, organic and enriched, to name a few. Who wouldn’t throw up their hands trying to decide what to buy?

Dietitian Laura Jeffers, MEd, RD, LD, helps break down which bread is healthier and what you should stay far away from.

Look for ‘100%’ on labels

When browsing the bread aisle at your grocery store, look for the term “100% whole-grain” or “100% whole-wheat” on the package.

“If you’re wondering which is better, either one works,” says Jeffers. “Whole wheat is a whole grain.”

Although different grains offer different benefits, many whole-grain breads are primarily made with wheat. If you’re looking for a nice mix of grains, check your ingredient label. Primary ingredients should be listed first in order of the amount within the loaf (wheat, oats, flax seeds, barley, buckwheat, etc.).

“Be cautious of terms like ‘wheat’ or ‘multigrain’ that don’t mention a percentage,” she warns. “They sound healthy, but they’re probably made with partially or mostly refined white flour. Wheat flour is 75% white flour and only 25% whole-wheat.”

“Enriched” is another clever term that means the maker of the bread has added nutrients to an otherwise nutrient-free white bread. When you see that word on a label, put it down and look for something else.

Unless you find that 100% on the package and whole-wheat listed as the first ingredient on the label, the bread is simply a refined loaf of bread with synthetic nutrients added to replenish those natural nutrients lost in the milling process.

bread

Good bread makes your body happy

The benefits of eating 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain far surpass just the taste. Eating whole-grain foods within an overall healthy diet helps to lower your risk for many diseases, including:

Whole-grains are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins and many other nutrients that help to lower blood pressure, reduce gum disease, strengthen the immune system and help control weight. The Whole Grains Council reports that benefits are greatest with at least three servings per day, but every whole grain helps.

Say ‘no’ to substandard bread

Most other bread is made with grains that have been finely milled. The resulting flour is whiter and lighter — in more ways than one.

Not only does this refined flour look whiter and bake fluffier, but it also falls short of many of the nutrients essential to optimum health. Whole-grains begin as a whole grain kernel: bran, germ, endosperm.

The milling process mechanically removes the bran, which is the fiber-rich outer layer of the grain and contains B vitamins and other minerals. Milling also removes the second germ layer, which is rich in Vitamin E and essential fatty acids. In the end, what’s left is the starchy center, which is ground into flour for various baking purposes.

“Refined flour lacks all of those wonderful nutrients and high-starch foods like white bread can quickly raise your blood sugar levels, putting you at risk for diseases like diabetes,” she says. “That’s why you should consider nothing but the best: 100% whole wheat or whole-grain bread.”

 November 4, 2020 / Nutrition

source: health.clevelandclinic.org


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The Happy Brain Chemicals that Makes You Feel Good

Did you know, 37% of people around the world are unhappy. That means at least 1 in 3 people you know aren’t happy with their life. Are you one of those people?

If so, there are simple ways to improve your happiness. Have you heard of happiness chemicals? Your brain releases these happy chemicals that make you feel good.

It is common to think happiness is a destination that you have to find either through material items, relationships, or career status. But happiness is the journey and something you can create on your own.

Improving your happiness can be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep. It is known that people who are sleep deprived have a harder time remembering positive ideas and an easier time remembering negative ideas.

What are the Happiness Chemicals

When you feel good, your brain is releasing one of the happiness chemicals or happy hormones. There are four main happiness brain chemicals:

  1. Dopamine
  2. Oxytocin
  3. Serotonin
  4. Endorphins

Each chemical has a job to do and when your brain releases one of these chemicals, you feel good.

It would be great if they all surged all the time. However, it does not work this way. Once the chemical has done its job, it will turn off, leaving you with a desire for more.

By understanding how these chemicals work, we can better improve our overall happiness by tapping into each of the four happiness chemicals.

Dopamine

Dopamine enables motivation, learning, and pleasure. It gives you the determination to accomplish goals, desires, and needs.

It’s similar to the, “I got it” feeling when you accomplish something. Once you achieve those goals, desires, or needs, dopamine gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure.

However, the overstimulation of dopamine can become a real problem because of its addictive nature. It is closely tied to developing bad habits or addictions.

The effects of dopamine are fleeting due to its instant gratification feeling, which leaves you desiring more.

Oxytocin

Oxytocin gives a feeling of trust, it motivates you to build intimate relationships and sustain them. It is also known as the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone” because it plays a role in bonding.

This hormone gives you the desire to stick together with those you “trust”, which creates a feeling of safety or comfort. It helps your body adapt to several different emotional and social situations.

Oxytocin can boost your immune system which makes you more resistant to the addictive qualities of dopamine. Unlike dopamine, oxytocin gives you a lasting feeling of calm and safety.

It can help fight stress, improve relationships, and promote long-lasting positive emotions.

Serotonin

Serotonin rewards you with a good feeling when you feel significant or important. It is the pleasure you get when you experience social power, loyalty, or status.

It results from finding opportunities to assert or prevail. This is not aggressive, rather it is a calm form of confidence and accepting yourself within the people around you.

Serotonin is what motivates a leader to excel and grow. It not only motivates you but your peers to do the same. The feeling of not letting down their leader, parent, or teacher is what causes this motivation.

Endorphin

Endorphins release a brief euphoria that masks physical pain. It is a response to pain and stress which also helps alleviate anxiety and depression. Any kind of physical distress can trigger endorphins.

However, you can also get a release of endorphins when you experience “runners high”. Runners high only occurs when you exceed your limits.

The release of endorphins acts as a natural pain killer and diminishes your perceptions of pain.

The Effects of Happiness Chemicals

At least 1 in 3 people in the world who were surveyed in 2020 were unhappy. That’s a huge portion of the population.

happiness chemicals

Happiness or lack thereof affects everyone and can contribute to poor overall health. There have been numerous studies linking depression to the reduction of happiness chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.

One study found people with clinical depression have increased levels of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A). This is an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters.

We will discuss how neurotransmitters play a role in the happiness chemicals later in this article, but simply this means you will get less dopamine or serotonin, thus, less happiness.

This deficiency can lead to various effects that could contribute to mental illnesses like depression.

How Deficiency Affects You

Low levels of happiness chemicals can lead to various symptoms such as fatigue, lack of motivation, and feeling anxious just to name a few.

Here are some of the common symptoms due to the deficiency of the happiness chemicals.

Dopamine Deficiency

  • procrastination
  • low self-esteem
  • lack of motivation or enthusiasm
  • low energy or fatigue
  • inability to focus
  • feeling anxious
  • feeling hopeless
  • mood swings

Oxytocin Deficiency

  • feeling lonely
  • stressed
  • lack of motivation or enthusiasm
  • low energy or fatigue
  • a feeling of disconnect from your relationships
  • feeling anxious
  • insomnia

Serotonin Deficiency

  • low self-esteem
  • being overly sensitive and emotional
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • mood swings
  • depression and feeling hopeless
  • social phobia
  • obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • insomnia

Endorphin Deficiency

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • aches and pains
  • insomnia
  • impulsive behavior

For those who have difficulty dealing with these symptoms and are feeling stress and overwhelmed, consider taking the window of tolerance self-assessment to identify your symptoms and how to self-regulate.

Benefits of Happiness

Happiness not only plays a role in making you feel good but contributes to:

1. Improved overall health

    • improved heart health and lower risk of heart disease
    • the ability to combat the stress hormone cortisol
    • stronger immune system so you’re less like to get sick
    • a healthier lifestyle such as physical activity and sleep habits
    • can help reduce aches and pain of those with chronic conditions
    • increase life longevity

2. Improved creativity and problem-solving skills

3. Benefiting the community through involvement with charities

4. Having more positive relationships with those around you

5. Being able to enjoy life more and get through life challenges easier

6. Being happy with what you have

How to Increase Happy Brain Chemicals

Most people don’t get enough of each of the happiness chemicals. I know I certainly struggle with this. If you have a full-time job or studies it can be challenging.

This deficiency can make you feel sad, depressed, hopeless, and anxious. Especially those who suffer from depression or experience downward spirals. Thankfully, they’re many simple ways to naturally boost each of the happy brain chemicals.

Below are some of the many natural ways you can get your daily happiness chemicals. Pick a few to start and remember that continuous practice is what makes a difference.

How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

  • meditate regularly (increases dopamine by 65%)
  • make a daily to-do list & long term goals (each time you tick off a task or goal you increase dopamine levels)
  • eat foods that are rich in L-Tyrosine (avocados, fish, eggs, cheese, banana, and pumpkin seeds)
  • exercise regularly (whichever form of exercise you enjoy the most will give you the most increase in dopamine levels)
  • create something such as writing, music, art & crafts (“if I create something, I am also creating dopamine”)

How to Increase Oxytocin Levels Naturally

  • physical touch, cuddling, hugging, making eye contact, and even shaking hands
  • socializing (connecting or talking with friends and family reduces cortisol and stimulates your vagus nerve)
  • touching your pet (research shows it lowers blood pressure)
  • getting a massage (reduces stress hormones)
  • acupuncture (elevates oxytocin concentrations)
  • listening to music (has a calming effect on the brain, slow-tempo music has also been shown to increase oxytocin)
  • exercise (stimulates the vagus nerve)
  • cold showers (stimulates the vagus nerve)
  • meditate

How to Increase Serotonin Levels Naturally

  • exercise (increases serotonin and dopamine, but also helps balance them)
  • cold showers (2-3 mins of cold showers can be unpleasant but offers great benefits that have longer-lasting effects than compared to caffeine)
  • sunshine (10-15 minutes of sunlight a day can increase serotonin and vitamin D)
  • eating foods such as banana, eggs, omega-3 fish, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, and probiotics
  • getting a massage (increases serotonin and decreases cortisol)

How to Increase Endorphin Levels Naturally

  • laughter and crying
  • creating music or art
  • eating dark chocolate and spicy foods
  • exercise or stretching
  • high-intensity interval training
  • getting a massage
  • meditate

Getting your daily happy chemicals seems pretty straight forward. But if you are struggling with happiness because you suffer from negative thinking patterns, I recommend learning to challenge negative thoughts first.

daily-dose-happiness-infographic

These are just some of the many ways you can get your daily happy hormones. If you have some that already work for you, continue doing those. If you don’t try picking a few from the list.

When choosing things that will help increase happiness levels, think about how each of them affects your health. There are three states of health (physical, mental, and social health).

Make sure you choose activities that don’t all contribute to one aspect only. Try to pick a few that can contribute to different aspects so you can reap the full benefits of the happiness chemicals.

If you are unfamiliar with the three aspects of the Health Triangle, I recommend taking the self-assessment first to see which areas you are lacking so you can choose activities that target that aspect.

Overstimulation of the Happiness Chemicals

Ever hear the saying…

“too much of a good thing is a bad thing

Well, it’s true. Overstimulation of each of the four happiness chemicals in the brain can lead to desensitization.

This in turn leads to an increased desire for those happiness chemicals which creates an addiction cycle. This addiction cycle can affect anyone, especially those who suffer from a mental illness such as depression.

Thankfully, there are ways we can manage or reduce overstimulation. For example, let’s take a look at dopamine as it is commonly known for its addictive nature.

How Dopamine Receptors Work

Dopamine itself is a type of neurotransmitter. The receptor is the receiver of the neurotransmitter. Each type of neurotransmitter has a unique receptor to match it.

To simplify, think of the receptor and neurotransmitter as a lock and key. A specific type of neurotransmitter will only fit into the correct receptor.

Once the dopamine attaches to the dopamine receptor it delivers a chemical message which gives you the effects of the neurotransmitter, in this case, dopamine.

Overstimulation of Dopamine Receptors

If your dopamine receptors are overstimulated, you can become desensitized to the effects of dopamine.

Overstimulation occurs when you experience prolonged periods of dopamine stimulation. This leads to the brain protecting itself by destroying some of the receptors.

Remember, happiness chemicals are only meant to be experienced for a short period before turning off.

Your dopamine levels should remain at an off or low state for some time before being stimulated again. This is a normal up and down experience with dopamine.

However, when you override your natural satiation mechanism by continually feeding yourself dopamine, then Supernormal Stimuli occurs.

This is what happens when you have a normal experience with dopamine versus supernormal stimuli:

stimuli

The supernormal stimuli is an overstimulation of dopamine which leads to desensitization. This tolerance then encourages us to feed our desire for dopamine even more which creates a cycle of addiction.

Here are some common activities we are all guilty of which leads to overstimulation:

  • eating fast food regularly
  • scrolling through social media feeds non-stop
  • binge-watching your favorite tv show all weekend with little to no breaks

Prevent Overstimulation

Preventing overstimulation can allow your dopamine levels to drop back to a normal level before the next stimulation.

This helps to maintain our sensitization and does not create an addictive attitude towards dopamine. By doing so this will allow you to feel the full effects of dopamine when you experience it.

Here are a few simple ways to prevent overstimulation:

  • limiting your use by stopping after some time (this allows enough time to drop to a normal level)
  • limiting the frequency of use (eating fast food once or twice a week versus every day)
  • not using it like a drug
  • not using it as an escape mechanism

This is especially important when you have a mental illness such as depression.

The desire to feel better or wanting to escape the pain you experience creates a higher risk for addiction due to the desire for happiness chemicals like dopamine.

Everything in moderation is important to maintain reasonable levels of happiness chemicals.

How to Increase Dopamine Receptors

Overstimulation causes dopamine receptors to be destroyed. Abstaining from the activities that cause overstimulation will allow the number of dopamine receptors to increase.

The increase of dopamine receptors will then increase the effects when dopamine is released. Thus, more happiness!

Here are a few other ways to increase dopamine receptors:

  • high-intensity interval training is the most effective form of exercise
  • digital detox (taking time off from technology for a week or two)
  • cold showers or ice baths

Hack Your Happiness Chemicals

To recap, there are four happiness chemicals that your brain releases to make you feel good:

  1. Dopamine: Enables motivation, learning, and pleasure
  2. Oxytocin: Gives you a feeling of trust to build intimate relationships
  3. Serotonin: When you experience social power or confidence in accepting yourself
  4. Endorphin: Brief euphoria to mask physical pain

How to Increase Happy Hormones Naturally:

  1. Understand how deficiency affects you by recognizing what symptoms you may experience
  2. Identify what activities you would enjoy doing to increase happiness
  3. Consistency is key, ensure you are regularly doing those activities
  4. Be aware of overstimulation and abstain from any activities as required

There are plenty of activities that can increase happiness hormones naturally. Choose a few you enjoy, either from the list or ones you already enjoy doing. What’s important is that you enjoy doing it, otherwise it won’t stick.

Remember, we’re looking to achieve long-term happiness so doing an activity once or twice will not make an impact on your lifestyle.

When you are dealing with an existing mental illness, addiction, or trauma, it can be difficult to increase your happiness chemicals.

Consider building up your window of tolerance first to help you deal with the stress, anxiety, or trauma you may have. Then when you come to increasing happiness, it becomes much easier to do.

source: MindPeelings


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4 Ways To Create And Maintain Inner Peace

4 Steps to Create a Lasting Inner Calm

When it seems like the world is in complete disarray, is it possible to create inner calm?

Is our well-being at the mercy of external events, exclusively affected by circumstances? Many people believe this to be true—or at least live their lives as if it is. The problem with this mindset is that it creates a massive sense of lacking something, of unrest and of overall stress. We cannot possibly feel like we are in control of our lives if we let the environment we live in rule our inner tranquility. The truth is, you’re greater than your surroundings and the events that are happening around you. You have the ability to create inner harmony regardless of situation or circum- stance. The key is to unlock your inner power and knowledge. As the founder of The Positive Change Group, I help clients find balance. And as an expert in the field, I know that understanding the following simple steps and staying true to them will create lifelong positive changes.

CREATING LASTING INNER CALM

1. YOUR TIME

Time truly is your most precious commodity. When clients I work with say they don’t have time, they’re expressing a false reality. We all have the same amount of time in a day. The difference is that people who are truly happy and have inner peace are very discerning about with whom and how they spend their time. You have time for anything that you make a priority. The key is to reassess your priorities and make sure they are in alignment with what is right for you.

It is simple, really. Where you spend your time can either drain you or energize you. When was the last time you asked yourself questions such as these: Why am I doing this? How is this serving me?

Do I really want to be doing this?

All these questions are necessary to ask because the answers lead to the next vital point: When we understand how precious our time is and how it directly relates to our self-love, then we’re more careful about whom we spend it with. And this is key to having what I call healthy boundaries.

Healthy boundaries are essential to finding inner calm. Many people can attribute the lack of healthy boundaries to a feeling of depletion and disharmony. How can you possibly have inner harmony if you are not able to say no to what doesn’t serve you? Many of us often feel a sense of obligation or duty to say yes to things that make us miserable.

Positive Change Exercise #1: Do a Time Audit

Take a week and look at the things you do and whom you spend your time with. Decide what brings you joy and what depletes you. The simple act of bringing consciousness to how you spend your time is the first step toward making change.

Once you become aware of how your time is being spent, then you can start to create healthy boundaries and choose when you need to politely say no. This may mean making small changes or starting out with only what you feel comfortable doing, working forward from there. And don’t worry about feeling selfish. The reality is that everyone around you gets the best version of you when you take care of yourself and cultivate that inner calm.

Emotional_intelligence

2. YOUR THOUGHTS

They can be the hardest things to change because thoughts are so powerful. But let’s just look at it in a simple way. Thoughts hold energy. For instance: Think about a time in your life when you felt like you weren’t enough or when you felt you were a disappointment. How does that feel?

Now I want you to think of a time in your life when you felt joy, love, or a sense of accomplishment. How does that feel?

Notice the difference in your body when thinking of each moment. Our thoughts are powerful and have energy.

Calming tip: When you’re in a difficult situation or feeling stressed, breathe in deeply, filling your body completely; on the exhale, intentionally release the stress. Now, in this moment, take yourself to that place where you felt love or joy or accomplishment. Sit in that energy and know that it exists in all moments. Then, take another deep breath, let the stress go and inhale love. Look at the situation you’re currently in and understand how your inner state can impact the outer environment, either by fueling stress or eliminating it. Keep breathing, and let your mind shift.

3. YOUR WORDS

The next key step is paying attention to your words. Do your words lift your spirits? Do the words you say create calm or promote the opposite reaction? It is impossible to feel a sense of inner peace when the words you speak are negative, judgmental or aggressive. Words carry energy. Where do you want your energy to be? Make sure your words match your desire.

Positive Change Exercise #2: Do a Vocabulary Audit

Notice some of the common phrases you use that create stress or struggle. I used to always say, “I am so busy.” It was an easy go-to when talking to people until I decided that I hated saying this and I hated the way it made me feel, as if I didn’t have time and was always on the go. Once I started to eliminate this phrase from my vocabulary, it was amazing what shifted. I felt more in control of my life and my time. “Busy” can be a choice. It takes practice to change, but the more you work on it, the easier it becomes.

4. YOUR ACTIONS

Finally, our actions need to create calm, too. This active part is one of the biggest aspects of creating change. But it is easier to carry out calm and harmonious behaviours when our words and thoughts are also in line with the goal of inner peace. When we train our brain to think and speak calmly, it becomes easier to do.

Positive Change Exercise #3: Do an Action Audit

Create a list of all the things you love to do that nourish your body and soul. Now look at that list. How many times a day or a week are you actually doing the things on your list? The simple act of bringing a conscious awareness to what you do is the first step toward accomplishing change.

  • Activities that can create inner calm:
  • Spending time in nature
  • Moving your body
  • Eating healthfully
  • Finding quiet time for self
  • Reading or journaling

Activities that can drain your energy:

  • Watching or reading the news
  • Eating unhealthy food
  • Surrounding yourself with toxic people
  • Spending too much time on social media

Think of other things you can add to your calm list and what you can eliminate or do less of from your energy drain list. This is what I call being in alignment.

The effort is in the inner work. When we realize the power we have within us to improve our thoughts, words and actions, we can see the results of these efforts in our own reality. We realize that we have some choice, regardless of what is going on around us. We get to choose what we think, say, do and feel.

May 11, 2021                   By: Julie Cass

source: www.canadianliving.com