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License to Sin: How to Dodge a Devilish Self-Control Loophole

You want another slice of cake or glass of wine, but you know you shouldn’t have one.

It’s the classic self-control dilemma.

But luckily there’s a loophole; sometimes we mentally give ourselves permission to indulge: “Well, I’ve worked hard today, so I’ll have another slice of cake or glass of wine.”

Now there’s a ‘license to sin’.

A recent study cleverly demonstrates this ‘license to sin’ and shows how dangerous it can be (de Witt Huberts et al., 2012).

A little snack

To investigate, the researchers tricked one group of people into thinking they’d worked twice as hard on a boring test as another group.


Both groups were then asked to do a ‘taste test’ of some rather tempting looking snacks.

The group that thought they’d worked harder now had more of a ‘license to sin’ as a reward to themselves.

And sure enough they ate, on average, 130 calories more in 10 minutes than the other group.

It’s fascinating that the participants did this without being told they’d worked harder or being given any other cues.

Also remember that, on average, both groups had their mental self-control muscles depleted the same amount as they’d both spent the same time doing the boring task.

Avoid the loophole

What this study is showing is that these well-worn mental thought processes can be insidious. The mind has all sorts of tricks it plays so that it can get what it wants.

The ‘license to sin’ is one of them. You want to over-indulge, so your mind creates this little story that says: I’ve worked hard, so I deserve it.

The clever thing is that it can completely bypass all those logical, rational things we’ve told ourselves about healthy eating (or whatever it is) and, non-coincidentally, we get what we want.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t indulge ourselves from time-to-time, but the question is: how often is the license to sin being invoked?

It’s a way of allowing our misbehaviour that is like an exception we all know about, but somehow don’t pull ourselves up on.

Being more aware of, and watching out for this trick may be useful in bolstering our self-control.

source: PsyBlog


11 Tips to Help You Think More Positively


In a study at the Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota patients were given a personality test that assessed their levels of optimism and pessimism. The progress of the patients was measured over 30 years, and it was found that the optimists lived longer than average for their age and gender while the pessimists had a shorter than average life. Researchers found that optimism strengthens the immune system and helps people to adopt healthier lifestyles. Optimists feel better about themselves and take better care of themselves, while pessimists confirm their fears by having higher blood pressure, more anxiety and depression.

You can choose to have depressing, negative thoughts or inspirational, positive thoughts; your attitude determines your mindset, which in turn determines your behaviours and the outcomes in your life. Many studies show that you will achieve more, feel happier and live longer if you chose the positive option. Here are some tips to boost your positive thinking.

Believe in Yourself
Successful people start with a deep inner self-belief. It has been shown that self-belief is more important than intelligence, education or connections in terms of life-long achievement. The important starting point is your conviction that you are capable of significant achievement or that you have something special to contribute.

Set Clear Goals
If you have no destination then your journey is haphazard. If you write down ambitious but achievable goals, then you are already on the road to accomplishing them.

Form a Mental Picture of Your Success
Imagine yourself achieving your goals. Savour the experience of your book being published, of making the sale, of giving the speech to rapturous applause, of winning the race, of living your dream. As your mind comes to terms with this picture it will help you to put the steps in place in order to achieve it.

Take Ownership and Responsibility for Your Life
Don’t be a victim. Don’t blame others or circumstances. You are the captain of the boat and you decide where it goes and what happens. If you are unhappy with an aspect of your life, then form a plan to change it and take action.

Talk to Yourself
Become your own motivator by telling yourself positive things. For example: at the start of the day you might say to yourself, “I am going to do really well today.” Or, “I am going to make real progress towards my goals.” When things go wrong or you falter, don’t make excuses—say something like, “That was my fault, but I can learn from that setback.”


yayEliminate the Negative
Use positive self-talk to overcome the doubts and negative thoughts that creep into your mind. Deliberately eliminate worries about difficulties and obstacles by taking a positive attitude, “I can overcome this challenge.” You do not ignore problems—you face up to them with a constructive and optimistic attitude.

Associate with Positive People
Among your friends, relatives, and associates there are probably some upbeat, positive, optimistic, dynamic people and some downbeat, negative, pessimistic or cynical people. Think about them for a moment and select examples of each. You should spend more time with the positive people and less time with the negative people. The optimists will inspire and encourage you, while the pessimists will feed your doubts and make you depressed.

Count Your Blessings
Draw up an assets and liabilities sheet for yourself. If you are educated, employed, healthy, in a loving relationship, financially solvent etc., then put these on the assets list. If you are unemployed, ill, in a toxic relationship, bankrupt, etc., then put these items into your liabilities list. The chances are that your assets will far outweigh your liabilities. We tend to take all the good things in our lives for granted and focus on our failings and needs instead.

Find the Silver Lining
Learn to look for the opportunities in every situation that comes along. Many self-employed consultants will tell you that being made redundant was the best thing that ever happened to them. At the time it may have seemed a terrible blow but now they have found greater fulfilment and satisfaction in what they do. Every change brings good as well as bad, opportunities as well as threats. The people who do well in life are the ones who use setbacks as springboards for new successes.

Relax and Enjoy Life More
Lighten up a little. If you can laugh at things then you can cope with them more easily. Don’t try to do everything at once. Don’t become overburdened with work. Deliberately give yourself little treats and do things that make you smile. Laughter is the best medicine—and the cheapest—so try to keep a balance between work, exercise, relationships and play.

Fake It.
If all else fails then fake it. If you are really worried, nervous, or doubtful, then pretend that you are confident and self-assured. Stride to the lectern, smile at the audience and act as though you are positive, professional and successful. Acting the role helps you develop the attitudes and behaviours that go with the part. You can fool the audience, and more importantly, you can fool your brain—you will start to be the confident, positive person that you are acting.

If positive thinkers achieve more, live longer, and are happier than negative thinkers then why would anyone choose to be a negative thinker? The answer is that many people find negative thinking to be an easy option that is more comfortable and offers less challenge. Do not fall into that trap. Think positively!

source: www.lifehack.org

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15 Natural Options for Depression

Michelle Schoffro Cook         May 10, 2012

Everyone feels down at some point, usually as a reaction to difficult circumstances, but clinical depression goes far beyond that. In such cases a person experiences a prolonged sadness that is out of proportion with the apparent cause. The physical and psychological symptoms affect a person’s capacity to function normally in the world.

Depression is often accompanied by sleep disruption, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, prolonged lapses of concentration, pain, apathy, decreased sex drive and suicidal thoughts.  Because these symptoms can be attributed to other diseases or conditions and are serious, it is always important to consult a medical doctor for a diagnosis.

Diet: Poor nutrition, in my opinion, is one of the greatest causes of depression, and one of the easiest and most overlooked solutions. My two decades of clinical experience tell me that depression cannot be managed for the long-term without addressing the diet.

Poor diet is frequently linked to depression because food additives, chemicals, alcohol, sugar, and sugar substitutes can have severely negative effects on our mental and physical health.

Eating a healthful diet (not a low carb diet, in this case) helps the body balance hormone levels, including important brain hormones that help us feel good.  For example, complex carbohydrates from vegetables, legumes and whole grains help the brain manufacture serotonin, a “feel good” neurotransmitter that is needed to prevent and treat depression.

Food Sensitivities: It’s also important to address possible food allergens or sensitivities, which can sometimes be tough to pinpoint. The most common ones include: dairy, wheat, gluten, MSG, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and food colors. Removing these foods from the diet in favor of wholesome, nutrient-dense food choices frequently improves mood. Assistance from a qualified natural health practitioner can be helpful.

Blood Sugar Fluctuations: Many of my depressive clients confirm that they are in the habit of skipping meals (like breakfast) or waiting long periods of time between eating. This confirms a suspicion that blood sugar imbalances are a factor in depression. Keep blood sugar levels balanced by eating a healthy snack or meal every two to three hours.

Essential Fats: Essential fatty acids are necessary to treat depression, as they are required to create healthy brain cells and are involved in regulating neurotransmitters—the brain hormones that balance mood including serotonin and oxytocin. Take 3000 mg daily of either fish or flax oils, or 500 mg of DHA or EPA, or a blend of both. Flaxseed oil is also a good source of essential fatty acids. Two tablespoons daily of flax oil can be helpful. You can pour flax oil over baked sweet potatoes or vegetables, or blend some into smoothies.

Digestion: Improving the body’s ability to extract nutrients from food can be helpful in treating depression naturally. Supplementing your diet with a high-quality full-spectrum digestive enzyme formula that includes the amylase, invertase, lactase, maltose, lipase, and protease, enzymes can be beneficial. One to three enzyme capsules or tablets with every meal help your body break down the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your food into natural sugars, essential fatty acids, and amino acids needed for optimal healing.

Nutrient Deficiencies: Because so many vitamins and minerals are involved with mood balancing, it is important that you address any possible deficiencies by taking a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement with meals.

Mood-Boosting B Vitamins: Additionally, because the B-complex vitamins are so vital for restoring balanced moods, an extra 100 mg B-complex supplement daily is often necessary in people suffering from depression.

Balancing Serotonin: As a precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP helps to restore healthy levels of this much needed brain chemical.  I usually use 50 to 100 mg of 5-HTP at bedtime for two months for people with depression.

Herbal Support: Despite one well-publicized study that demonstrated the ineffectiveness of St. John’s wort against severe depression, many research studies show that it is effective against mild and moderate depression, and it also helps raise serotonin levels in the brain. I recommend 900 to 1200 mg daily.  However, avoid taking St. John’s wort if you are taking pharmaceutical antidepressants, and do not take it within two to three hours of sunlight exposure.

Boosting Oxygen in the Brain: The herb gingko biloba helps bring more oxygen to the brain via the blood stream. Your brain needs oxygen to work properly. A beneficial dose for depression is 60 mg three times daily.

Regulating Brain Biochemistry:  S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) occurs naturally in the body and helps regulate certain biochemical reactions, including those linked to mood regulation; however it can be low in people suffering from depression. Four hundred to 1600 mg daily of SAMe to ensure your brain can make important mood elevating hormones.

Balancing Hormones: Supplementing with 2 to 4 grams of vitamin D daily can help with depression, because it helps the body make serotonin.

Sunlight: We all know that getting moderate amounts of sunshine helps boost mood. It’s no different with depression.

Exercise: People suffering from depression should also supplement their daily routines through more fresh air and physical activity. Exercise is a natural anti-depressant, and engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise like brisk walking or jogging is good for your body and mind.

Dehydration: And as always, drink lots of pure water to avoid dehydration, which is frequently a factor in depression.

source: Care2.com

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4 Ways to Enjoy (Not Just Endure) Holiday Family Gatherings

The holidays mean lots of time spent with family, which can mean lots of opportunities for stress. Whether your brother-in-law insists on talking about politics, your mother probes into your love life, or your Great Aunt Jean picks her teeth at the table, each family gathering is rife with opportunities to lose your cool.

“The irony about spending time with the people you know and love the best is that they also know how to push your buttons the most,” says Kate Hanley, author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide. You can either clench your jaw and muddle through until it’s time to go home again, or you can try a few mindfulness techniques that can help you stay open-hearted to the people you love, Hanley says. “The only way you can change another person’s behavior is to change the way you react to them—and taking even a few seconds to take a deep breath can help you react more thoughtfully to whatever’s stressing you out.”

Here are four simple remedies—drawn from meditation, yoga, and acupressure—Hanley suggests trying at every family gathering you’ll be attending this holiday season. “Although no one thing can magically transform your family relationships, these tips can help you be more relaxed, less stressed, and less likely to get snippy with the people you love.”

Stand by your mantra.

Before you head to the family gathering, decide which family quirks you’re dreading the most. Then resolve to repeat a calming mantra whenever your stress trigger happens. “Your mantra can be any word or short phrase that’s meaningful to you,” Hanley says. “It could be something formal, like ‘Om’ or ‘Amen,’ or something simple such ‘peace’ or ‘bless his heart.'” Whatever mantra you choose, taking a few moments to repeat it before you react to whatever is pushing your buttons gives you a chance to collect your thoughts—making you less likely to over-react.

How to Stay Healthy at Christmas

Accentuate the positive.

Before you leave for the family gathering (or before you begin getting ready, if you’re hosting), take a few moments to name the parts of the day you’re looking forward to—such as eating Mom’s apple pie, seeing your favorite cousin, or playing with your niece. Then if anything happens to spike your stress levels, make it a point to focus on the things you like. “Changing your focus from something upsetting to something enjoyable can snap you out of a downward spiral in mood,” Hanley says.

Practice the art of letting go.

We all wish we could “get more Zen” around our families, but we can all use a little help because the emotions associated with family are deep-seated and highly charged. There is an acupressure point known as Letting Go that facilitates the release of troublesome emotions, deepens breathing, and promotes relaxation. “Spending a few minutes applying gentle pressure to your Letting Go points can provide a noticeable shift in your mood,” Hanley says. “You can do it in your car before you go inside or even in the bathroom if you need help during the festivities.” To find the Letting Go points, feel the tips of your collarbones on either side of the notch of your throat. Walk your fingers out to where the collarbones end—the Letting Go points are located three finger widths below that end point. With your arms crossed in front of your torso, press two or three fingertips in to the points on either side of your chest and breathe naturally as you do. “You don’t need to go for the burn—think steady but gentle pressure,” Hanley advises. After a minute or two, remove your fingertips slowly and take a couple of breaths before you head back in to the festivities.

Remember your heart.

Whenever you need help staying calm, take a moment to lay one hand over your heart. “This simple gesture shifts your focus away from your swirling thoughts and on to your body—where your deepest wisdom resides—and your heart in particular, which helps you react with love instead of frustration,” Hanley says. “If anyone in your family catches you doing it and looks at you funny, just tell them you have heartburn.”

Kate Hanley is a professional writer who specializes in exploring the mind-body connection.

source: life.gaiam.com

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The Key to Health, Wealth and Success: Self-Control

By Maia Szalavitz    
Self-control may be the secret to success, according to a persuasive new study that followed 1,000 children from birth to age 32: children who showed early signs of self-mastery were not only less likely to have developed addictions or committed a crime by adulthood, but were also healthier and wealthier than their more impulsive peers.
Problems surfacing in adolescence, such as becoming a smoker or getting pregnant, accounted for about half of the bad outcomes associated with low self-control in childhood. Kids who scored low on such measures — for instance, becoming easily frustrated, lacking persistence in reaching goals or performing tasks, or having difficulty waiting their turn in line — were roughly three times more likely to wind up as poor, addicted, single parents or to have multiple health problems as adults, compared with children who behaved more conscientiously as early as age 3.
“This is a great study, mining a huge trove of data to tease apart the relationships among some really important factors that can determine the direction of our lives,” says Martha Farah, director of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. “It highlights how incredibly important self-control is.”
Dr. Bruce Perry, professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University, agrees: “It’s a very cool study. This is taken from data from what is probably the best long-term study in our field.” (Disclosure: Perry and I have written two books together.)

The new research confirms the findings of the famous Stanford marshmallow study, which found that young children who were able resist grabbing a fluffy marshmallow placed in front of them — for 15 long minutes — in order to get two of them later scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT than kids who couldn’t wait. About one-third of the 4-to-6-year-olds studied were able to withstand the sweet temptation. As in the current research, the kids with more self-control in the marshmallow trial had better life outcomes across the board.
For the new study, the “Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study” whose results were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by Duke University psychologist Terrie Moffit followed 1,000 children in New Zealand for more than three decades.

Moffitt and her colleagues measured children’s self control on numerous occasions, getting behavior ratings from parents and teachers as well as from research staff who worked with the children. “All children have varying attention spans, and all get frustrated now and then,” she says. “But our measures indicated that a child had low self-control only if the scores from different reporters and on different occasions all added up and pointed in the same direction.”

By adulthood, children in the highest self-control group were significantly less likely to have multiple health problems (11%), compared with kids in the lowest self-control group (27%). They were also much less likely to have addictions to multiple substances (3% vs. 10%, respectively), says Moffitt.

Only 10% of kids with high self-control grew up to have low income — less than $20,000 per year — compared with 32% of their more impulsive peers. Forty-three percent of the least disciplined children had a criminal record by age 32, compared with just 13% of the  most conscientious. And as adults, 58% of kids who had low self-control had become a single parent; this was true for only 26% of the high self-control group.
In previous research, researchers have found that impulsiveness and out-of-control behavior are more common in children who have experienced loss, trauma or violence — factors that tend to affect poorer kids more than rich ones. “If you have adverse experiences, that’s going to turn up the stress response,” says Perry, explaining that stress may affect the proper development of the frontal cortex in children’s brains, which is responsible for self-control and for “putting the brakes” on the brain’s lower brain regions. “If you have lower self-control, you’ll have a harder time in school, you won’t learn as efficiently, you’re more likely to act on frustration, which means more social problems and you might end up with legal problems.”
Although Moffit’s study found some “concentration of low self-control children in homes with low income,” the author says, the correlation was small. “There were plenty of well-to-do children with very low self-control.”
In fact, poor children who scored best on measures of self-control were more likely than others to become wealthy in later life. “One interpretation of the findings is that children with high self-control who began life in low-income homes ended up as adults with higher incomes,” says Moffitt.

Not surprisingly, many of the lapses in self-discipline that led to the worst life outcomes occurred during the teenage years: teens who had scored lowest in measures of self-control in early childhood were the most likely to make mistakes in the first place. And even those low self-control teens who managed to avoid smoking, pregnancy and alcohol or other drug problems, and stayed in school did worse later in life than their more disciplined peers. “This suggests that there might be a better return on investment from early childhood interventions,” Moffitt says.
“Trial and error is a healthy part of teenage life,” she adds. “But teens with good self-control engage in trial and error strategically, and they appreciate the difference between a useful learning experiment and real danger. I’m convinced that teenagers can be coached on this distinction.”
Interventions aimed at improving self-control and behavior throughout childhood are now being studied, but so far, research has not identified a single best approach. The most effective programs are small and tightly focused on increasing self-control itself — as opposed to fighting bullying, drugs or other problem behaviors — according to Moffitt.
Intriguingly, about 7% of the children in Moffitt’s study dramatically increased their own self-control over the course of the research, suggesting that such change is possible. But researchers don’t know how or why this happened. “Perhaps some of them attended a school that stressed achievement and provided structure. Perhaps some of them experienced changes in family life, such as parents’ changing marital status that brought more structure into the child’s daily life. We don’t really know,” Moffitt says.
“We have deeply held cultural beliefs about self-control — the importance of thinking about the future, persisting with the chores of life — which show up in fables like ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’ or ‘The Tortoise and the Hare,’” says Farah. “This research shows that there is great wisdom there — delaying gratification and hanging in are aspects of self-control that bring great benefit.”
That’s probably welcome news to all those tiger mothers’ ears. While tiger parenting may err when it veers into harshness, the evidence in favor of teaching the discipline of hard work and repeated practice only continues to grow.
source: time

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Why Many Small Pleasures Beat Fewer Larger Ones

In these economic times we could all use a little advice on how to spend our money wisely.

Help comes in the form of an upcoming paper by Dunn, Gilbert and Wilson, gloriously titled ‘If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right‘.

Two massages for the price of one

Here’s a perplexing study. Nelson & Meyvis (2008) had participants massaged for 3 minutes. However one group had a 20 second break in the middle while the others had a continuous massage. Who enjoyed it more?

People predicted it would be the continuous massage, but they were wrong. People enjoyed the massage with the break more because the break stopped them becoming acclimatised to the massage.

The enemy of happiness is adaptation. Unfortunately we get used to things and they give us less pleasure; after a while we start taking them for granted. It’s sad but true.

But if you keep doing lots of small, different pleasurable things, you

‘ll get more pleasure overall and you’ll feel happier. This is partly why many small pleasures beat fewer larger ones.

Twice the price but not twice as nice

Small pleasures also take advantage of the fact that eating twice as much cake in one go isn’t twice as nice. It’s a bit better but not twice as good. It’s certainly much better to have some cake than no cake, but not twice as good to have double the cake.

Think about two people attending a sporting event, a concert or a show. Yes it’s better for them to sit at the front than sitting all the way at the back but is it worth paying twice the price? In terms of happiness it’s not. You won’t enjoy the event twice as much. It’s much better to get cheaper tickets and have two outings.

Savour small things

People who are able to savour the small things in life are happier. People who are richer tend not to savour the small things so much, partly because they expect more from life. This means they don’t gain all they can from being wealthy (I know, your heart bleeds!).

But we know better; so off you go now to a coffee shop, or cheap trip to the park, or to buy the worst seats in the house. It’ll be more fun in the long run.

source: PsyBlog