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5 Simple Ways to Live a Healthier Lifestyle

Dr. Neala Peake, selected from AllThingsHealing.com  September 16, 2013
by Drew Kobb, Contributor to Integrative Medicine on AllThingsHealing.com

We all want to improve our lives, to feel better — so why don’t we make the necessary changes to improve our lives? Probably because it seems a little daunting, especially when we compare our current lifestyles with where we want to be. It would be a huge adjustment for most of us to start eating as healthily as Gwyneth Paltrow or become as proficient in the practice of hatha yoga as Nina Dobrev. But you don’t have to get to that level of any healthy practice to live a healthy lifestyle. Healthy lifestyles are built and enhanced day by day, one healthy practice at a time.

Eat Fresh First

You don’t have to start eating completely clean and organic this very minute. That’s too big of a change and will be a shock to your body. Instead, make a gradual change and ease into a healthier diet. One of the easiest ways to start doing this is by making the majority of what you eat fresh rather than pre-packaged or processed.

When you prepare your own food and snacks from fresh ingredients, you have more control over what is going into your body. Processed, pre-packaged food is more likely to contain harmful additives and preservatives, and far less likely to have natural, healthy organic compounds and nutrients.

So make sure that, as much as is possible, you make and eat fresh food.

Take the Active Road

This is not to say you have to get up with the sunrise every morning to practice your yoga asanas, or never use a car again. Some places, such as for long grocery trips or an errand on the other side of town, are just not practical to walk or bike to. But if you’re just headed for one little thing at the corner store, it wouldn’t kill you to walk there, so you should. Whenever possible, take stairs as opposed to escalators or elevators.

Taking a little time to be active, even if it’s for something like this, will mean that much more work is done to move your muscle groups throughout the day.


Detox Yourself

Your body does the best it can to clean itself out internally, but sometimes it could use a little conscious effort and help to rid itself (ahem: you) of toxins.

Eat diets heavy in fiber, and try to take in substances that naturally work to help your body detox, such as peppermint tea, red pine oil, and ginger. Give yourself a hot steam bath every so often and clean out your pores more thoroughly than you normally do.

Relax and Recharge

Your body needs time to process and take in all the good things you do for it, and repair the damage of a day. So take time every day to just recharge from the stresses you face. Don’t dwell on the things that worry you every minute — take mental time off to relax your brain.

In addition to this, do whatever you can to get adequate sleep. Tests and studies show that your brain starts to lose the ability to concentrate once your nightly sleep time dips below 8 hours, and the average American adult only gets 6.9 hours of sleep each night. So take the necessary time to sleep and rest at night so your body can recharge.

Enjoy the Little Things

What’s the point of making the changes to live a healthier lifestyle if you don’t enjoy your life? Take time to notice and enjoy the small things that brighten your day. Take a moment to just feel the warm sunshine, to savor the food you eat. Relish the simple pleasures of life and allow your brain to release the serotonin that will help you feel healthy and happy. Then sit back and enjoy how much better you feel.

source:  www.care2.com
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Stress and the Brain

Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, M.D., Alexander Tsiaras and TheVisualMD.com        Posted: 07/24/2011


The human body responds to stress with a powerful fight-or-flight reaction. Hormone surge through the body, causing the heart to pump faster and sending extra supplies of energy into the bloodstream. For much of human history, this emergency response system was useful: It enabled people to survive immediate physical threats, like an attack from a wild animal. But today, the stress in most people’s lives comes from the more psychological and seemingly endless pressures of modern life. Daily challenges like a long commute or a difficult boss can turn on the stress hormones — and because these conditions don’t go away, the hormones don’t shut off.  Instead of helping you survive, this kind of stress response can actually make you sick.


Chronic stress can harm the body in several ways. The stress hormone cortisol, for instance, has been linked to an increase in fat around organs, known as visceral fat. The accumulation of visceral fat is dangerous, since these fat cells actively secrete hormones that can disrupt the functioning of the liver, pancreas and brain, causing problems such as insulin resistance, inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Chronic exposure to other stress hormones can also weaken the immune system and even change the structure of chromosomes.

How Stress Affects the Brain

Recent research suggests that chronic stress takes a toll on the brain, too. Studies on mice show that stress-related hormones alter physical structures in the brain in ways that could affect memory, learning and mood. Some of these changes involve dendrites — tiny branch-like structures on nerve cells that send and receive signals. Several studies have shown that stress hormones can shrink dendrites and, as a result, information doesn’t get relayed across nerve cells. When the cell damage occurs in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, it can impact memory and learning.

If stress makes you feel anxious, damage to dendrites might be part of the cause. A 2011 study found that rats whose dendrites had eroded due to stress had higher levels of anxiety. More research is needed to determine the exact effect of stress hormones on people’s brains, but one study of adults with post-traumatic stress disorder suggests that the stress hormone cortisol may actually shrink the size of the hippocampus. Researchers are still trying to determine if this is because of the hormone’s toxic effect on neurons or if there is a genetic component — or if both are involved.

Another part of the brain that seems to be affected by stress is the amygdala — the part of the brain that regulates fear and other emotions. A 2003 study found that in mice under stress, the amygdala grew larger while the dendrites in the hippocampus shrank. Researchers believe that together, these two effects may cause an increase in anxiety. They think that as the amygdala grows in size, you may experience more anxiety and fear. (The amygdala is known to become bigger and more active in people who are depressed). But because the hippocampus cells involved in memory are shrinking and not transmitting information effectively, you can’t connect the feelings of fear to memories of real events. You’re left with a lot of generalized anxiety.

Tips On Coping With Stress

If this news about stress and the brain is giving you a headache – or stressing you out in other ways – relax. The good news is that you can learn healthy ways to cope with stress that will protect your brain – and the rest of your body – from stress’s negative effects.


Not everyone is equally vulnerable to stress. Genetics play a role in how a person’s body reacts. Your past experiences can affect your response, too. If you lived through a lot of stressful situations growing up, you may be more sensitive to stress as an adult. Try to notice your own reactions to stress. Do you stay calm when pressures mount, or can you feel your pulse increase just thinking about a stressful situation? Once you become aware of what sets off your body’s fight or flight response, you can use these tips to try to change your response to stress.

1. Resolve the stressful situation if you can. You may not have much control over many of the sources of stress in your life, but if there is a something you can do to resolve a stressful situation, do it! Talk to friends about what you can do to change a bad situation, and consider getting help from a conflict resolution expert if necessary.

2. Spend time with loved ones and cultivate healthy friendships. Research shows that a good social support network has definite mental health benefits. It can keep you from feeling lonely, isolated or inadequate and if you feel good about yourself, you can deal with stress better. Friends and loved ones can be a good source of advice and suggest new ways of handling problems. But they can also be an excellent distraction from what’s bothering you. If your network of friends is small, think about volunteering, joining an outdoor activities group or trying an online meet-up group to make new friends.

3. Do an activity you like. Part of being stressed out is feeling that you never have enough time, so adding more activities to your schedule might seem like the last thing you need. But if you make even a little bit of time for an activity you really enjoy, the payoff can be huge: You feel calmer and happier and can deal with work and other demands better. Whether it’s playing music, doing a craft, or working on your car, do something that absorbs and relaxes you.

4. Try relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help slow your breathing and heart rate and focus your mind inward, away from whatever is causing you stress.

5. Exercise regularly. Whether it’s walking outside with a friend or taking an exercise class at the gym, getting active can help you relax and help turn off your body’s stress response.

6. Get plenty of sleep. When you’re well-rested, you can approach stressful situations more calmly.

7. Eat a healthy diet. Stress is tough enough on your body, so help it out by feeding it fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat protein.

8. Appreciate what’s good in your life. It sounds corny, but focusing your thoughts on positive parts of your life instead of the stress-ridden areas can be good for your physical health. Research shows that positive emotions helped people recover their normal heart rate more quickly after it was raised during exertion.

9. Laugh! Researchers are still investigating the precise effects of laughter on stress hormones, but some findings suggest that it has a stress-relief effect on heart rate, respiratory rate and muscle tension. Your own research has probably convinced you that laughing makes you feel better.

10. Seek professional counseling if necessary.  Extreme chronic stress is no laughing matter. Enlist the help of a professional if you think you are at risk for serious health effects.


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11 Tips to Help You Think More Positively

JUNE 12    BY PAUL SLOANE

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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28 Tips to Help You Relax Instantly

By Vesta Giles


Follow these pointers to ease life’s pressures.


Remember those bubble bath commercials that promised to take away all the day’s cares and worries? Well, no one’s denying that a nice long soak can do wonders for lowering your stress level, but it’s not likely you have a whirlpool in your office or a standby babysitter who can drop in for an hour while you get your equilibrium back.

So the next time you get those “stressed out” symptoms — tightness in your stomach, jaw, neck and back; shallow breathing; squinting eyes; fatigue; clammy hands and pounding heart — try one of the following instant stress busters.

Stress relief tips

At home or at work 1. Sit still and focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply for eight seconds, then exhale slowly for eight seconds. Repeat this five or six times. It helps bring more oxygen to the brain.

2. Stretch. With your chin down, slowly roll your head from shoulder to shoulder.

3. Make faces (try immitating Jim Carrey) in a mirror to stretch out tense facial muscles — and provide a good laugh, too!

4. Be optimistic. Think of ways to turn difficulties into opportunities.

5. Count your blessings. Make a list of everything you’re grateful for (and keep it handy for your next bout).

6. Find a stress-free sanctuary. Go to a spot where you can find some peace and privacy, even if it’s a bathroom stall.

7. Go for a walk around the block.

8. Visualize. Breathe deeply and think of a place that gives you comfort: a private beach, a garden, a cozy room.

9. Turn off the ringer on your phone.

10. Have a banana. It’ll boost your energy and replace potassium, which is depleted quickly during times of distress.

With the kids 11. Cloud-watch. Looking for interesting patterns together will calm you both.

12. Stretch together.

13. Let them brush your hair. While they play, you’ll get a scalp massage.

14. Hug.

15. Gently massage your child’s shoulders or feet, then let her massage yours.

16. Have a stock of activities that you know will keep your child occupied for a few minutes while you sip some tea.

In the middle of a task 17. Minimize negative self-criticism. Delete the chatter in your head and choose constructive ways to look at yourself and the situation.

18. Check in with your body. Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders up around your ears? If so, adjust your body position.

19. As a general rule, remember to keep your head up, your shoulders down and your back and jaw relaxed. And don’t forget to keep breathing.

20. Focus. Think about what you’re doing instead of how you’re doing.

Packed for pressure Keep a stash of de-stressers on hand. Here are some items to include.

21. A picture of a favourite relaxation spot or a book of beloved quotations or treasured poems.

22. An item that’s guaranteed to give you a good chuckle: maybe a Slinky or a rubber chicken.

23. Ginger. Add a pinch of powdered ginger to hot water for a soothing drink. Don’t exceed three cups a day and if you have intestinal difficulties, speak with your doctor first.

24. Chamomile tea.

25. Calming scents. Essential oils such as lavender, geranium, petitgrain, sandalwood, neroli, ylang-ylang and bergamot soothe and relax. Combinations of these oils can be used in either spray, roll-on or diffuser form.

The buddy system Strike a deal with a trusted friend or co-worker to be stress-busting pals. Some ideas:

26. “5 x 5” — take five minutes to talk about the problem and another five minutes to work on a solution.

27. Whine! Bellyache about what’s making you feel stressed. Get really dramatic and by the end you may both find yourselves laughing hysterically.

28. Trade shoulder massages.

The preceding tips were compiled with the assisstance of Penny Lawson, wellness professional; Helen Martinic, dietitian; and Dana Sinclair, sports psychologist.

source: CanadianLiving.com