Our Better Health

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How To Deal With Negative Thoughts And Anxiety

People in the study were asked to journal about their most stressful experiences.

Accepting negative emotions is the best way to deal with them in the long-run, new research finds.

People who are more accepting of their darker moods have better psychological health.

Dr Iris Mauss, one author of the study, said:

“We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health.”

Psychologists are still not sure exactly why acceptance is so powerful, said Dr Mauss:

“Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention.
And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

The results come from research on over 1,300 people.

Those who most strongly resisted negative emotions, or judged them excessively, were more stressed.

Over six months, the people who did best were those who let their dark moods run their course, with little judgement or criticism.

They had fewer symptoms of mood disorders like depression.

Dr Brett Ford, the study’s first author, said:

“It turns out that how we approaach our own negative emotional reactions is really important for our overall well-being.
People who accept these emotions without judging or trying to change them are able to cope with their stress more successfully.”

The researchers ruled out being richer as a factor, Dr Mauss said:

“It’s easier to have an accepting attitude if you lead a pampered life, which is why we ruled out socio-economic status and major life stressors that could bias the results.”

People were asked to journal about their most stressful experiences, in one of three studies the researchers conducted.

In general, those who did not feel bad about feeling bad had the highest levels of well-being and psychological health.

Next, the researchers want to look at where the habitual acceptance of negative emotions comes from.

Dr Mauss said:

“By asking parents about their attitudes about their children’s emotions, we may be able to predict how their children feel about their emotions, and how that might affect their children’s mental health.”

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Ford et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog    AUGUST 19, 2017 
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Cultivating the Happiness Habit

New research increasingly shows a link between positive emotions and good physical health. It may be a case of chicken and egg—people who are happier tend to cultivate healthier habits and those who practice healthy habits report greater happiness—but health and happiness are clearly connected. There are also simple practices that will boost both your happiness and your health.

How Happiness Affects Health

The role of negative emotions on health has long been studied, with clear evidence that serious, sustained stress or fear can over time cause people’s bodies to get worn down and become susceptible to illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. “We need to take more seriously the possibility that positive emotional style is a major player in [reducing] disease risk,” said Sheldon Cohen, psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon. Results of his studies confirm that people who are happy, lively, calm or exhibit other positive emotions are less likely to become ill when they are exposed to a cold virus than those who report few of these emotions.

optimism

A 2012 study published by the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed more than 200 studies that found a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Happiness (or the continuous cultivation of a positive and grateful attitude rather than seeking external pleasures and continuous stimulation), on the other hand, can play a significant role in boosting a person’s health and resiliency.

Researchers at UCLA have discovered that happiness can even alter your genes in a healthy way.

Cultivating Healthy Habits

It’s never too late or too difficult to cultivate the kind of happiness that is connected with good health.

Our health is shaped by five key factors (in order of importance): our behavioral choices, social circumstances, environmental conditions, genetics and access to medical care. While these affect each other, the good news is that we are not simply trapped by our circumstances. In fact, studies show that much less than half of our state of health is determined by our biology.

The biggest factor in determining our health is actually the daily choices we make in terms of our diet, physical activity, sex, stress and more. It is also determined by the attitude and mindset we cultivate.

It isn’t simply that happy people are healthier, but people who have a sense of well being often find it easier to maintain healthy habits. Happier people often eat better, exercise more often and enjoy good sleep than those who are not. Harvard School of Public Health professor Laura Kubzansky who has studied the link between health and happiness says, “People who have an optimistic mindset may be more likely to engage in healthy behaviors because they perceive them as helpful in achieving their goals.”

Cultivating the happiness habit

People who deliberately cultivate positive thinking and positive habits often find these to be mutually reinforcing. It might take effort at first but soon people find healthy practices to be rewarding both in terms of increased vitality and sense of well-being.

empathy

The charity Action for Happiness surveyed 5000 people and discovered that “our day-to-day habits have a much bigger impact on our happiness than we might imagine.” While they found that there were many habits linking health and happiness, it was also vital for people to accept and be kind to themselves.

Kindness linked with mindfulness, a technique that focuses on the present rather than the past or future, and which encourages gratitude and enjoyment of what is.
Action for Happiness developed a list of healthful behaviors that contribute to well-being:

  • Giving: do things for others
  • Relating: connect with people
  • Exercising: take care of your body
  • Appreciating: notice the world around
  • Trying out: keep learning new things
  • Direction: have goals to look forward to
  • Resilience: find ways to bounce back
  • Emotion: take a positive approach
  • Acceptance: be comfortable with who you are
  • Meaning: be part of something bigger

Whether you feel happy or not, you can make positive choices that boost both your mood and your health—and that is something to smile about! You will also invest in a healthier brain and body for your own future.

by Valerie Au          January 15, 2015


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Why (Some) Substitutes Don’t Satisfy Us

The more similar they are, the greater disappointment they evoke.

Have you ever craved a full-fat chocolate milkshake but opted for a diet frozen yogurt because you wanted to “be good”? But chances are that scarfing down the yogurt wasn’t just less pleasurable; it may actually have increased your craving, amplified your dissatisfaction, and set you up for a binge.

According to a new study led by Rochester University’s Melissa Sturge-Apple, this happens because the substitute food you chose too closely resembled what you actually wanted. As a result, you spent every bite registering just how far it fell short from what you truly craved.

Sturge-Apple’s team whetted hundreds of adults’ and undergraduates’ appetites for a particular brand of gourmet chocolate by having them taste test tiny pieces of it. Over the course of several experiments, the team repeatedly split participants into two groups—those who were invited to snack on similar but inferior quality substitutes for the high-end chocolate (i.e., knock-off versions of the chocolate or chocolate-covered peanuts) and those who were invited to snack on categorically different snacks (i.e., honey granola bars). The goal was to test which substitute food item did a better job of satisfying participants’ lab-induced hankering.

What the researchers found was that the similar but not quite up-to-snuff swaps left participants dissatisfied and still wanting the gourmet treat just as much (if not more), while the dissimilar option successfully quashed their pre-primed cravings.

In a follow-up study, participants who’d snacked on subpar substitutes or dissimilar swaps were surprised with a bowl full of the gourmet chocolate they’d initially been induced to crave. Upon being told to “eat as much as you like,” those who’d recently settled for similar but not quite as awesome alternatives ate far more of the chocolate than those who’d been sated with a non-chocolate distraction.

Sturge-Apple’s team believes that the reason too-similar substitutes fail to curb most peoples’ cravings—and eventually even make us eat way more than we otherwise would have—is because we can’t help comparing the replacement to the original. Because a knock-off chocolate brand (or, in other cases, a “diet” or “low-cal” treat) resembles what we actually want, we expect it to sate us just as well. But that substitute’s unlikeness in flavor dashes our expectations and compels us to seek the satisfaction we really yearn for elsewhere—if not through quality, then through quantity. (Cue the binge.)

acceptance

Despite our assumptions that we’ll be content with an item similar to the item we truly desire, Sturge-Apple et al.’s findings suggest we’re much better off seeking a novel treat if we can’t—or won’t allow ourselves to—secure what we really want.

“Contrary to participants’ belief that within-category substitutes are more satisfying,” Sturge-Apple and her team reported in the journal Psychological Science, “a cross-category substitute more effectively reduced cravings for a desired stimulus than did a within-category substitute…Indeed, consuming the cross-category substitute was as effective at reducing cravings for the desired stimulus as consuming the desired stimulus itself.”

She reasons that the lack of satisfaction received from so-called “cross-category substitutes” originates from their lower likelihood of “evoking a negative comparison to the desired stimulus.” (Dissimilar foods, in other words, aren’t likely to increase our hopes of feeling satisfied. Rather, a novel item may inspire a new hankering, so that all we have to do to feel satisfied is eat what’s newly in front of us.)

Sturge-Apple’s team believes that the effects of reaching for similarity or novelty in our ongoing hunt for satisfaction extend well beyond the realm of food. They point toward “consequential domains, such as jobs, benefits, and consumer goods” as offering equal fluctuations of satisfaction, depending on how we strategize when we can’t get precisely what we want. For example, if you repeatedly can’t land the dream position in the company you work for, you may be better off—happier—applying to work at a different company altogether. Or if you can’t seem to find joy in new romantic relationships because you’re comparing each partner to your idealized ex, then maybe it’s time to seek out a different “type.”

“Of course, cross-category substitutes have to meet the same needs or serve the same function as the desired stimulus,” Sturge-Apple et al point out, lest you veer too far from what you’re looking for and just end up getting lost. “For example,” the researchers offer, “we assume that people who want a 60-inch television will be more satisfied if they choose a 42-inch television as its substitute rather than an expensive coffeemaker.”

Ditto for jobs and dating: It’s probably not a helpful solution to take a new gig doing something you’re not even sure you like as a response to not getting promoted doing what you love. It will be equally unsatisfying to go on a rampage of one-night stands if you’re truly looking for a meaningful romantic connection. (Though some studies suggest that rebounds can help us get over breakups.)

Whether it’s food, love, work, or any other existential arena that forces you to accept that you can’t always get exactly what you want, Sturge-Apple’s findings suggest that the key to keeping your level of contentment high—and possibly avoiding binges, bad romances, and dead-end jobs—is to seek alternate ways to fulfill your needs and desires, even if you might not immediately consider these to be perfect solutions.

However, the larger takeaway is that comparisons breed disappointment: Whether you’re measuring a substitute food against an idealized but unattainable one, a new partner against a romanticized ex, or the reality of a career against the imagined trajectory you thought it would take.

But in cases when obtaining a novel means of satisfaction isn’t possible, you might benefit even more from the radical act of acceptance. If what (or who) you end up with falls short of your expectations, you’re better poised to experience that thing or person’s joys, qualities, and potentials for satisfaction. Crosby Stills and Nash may have said it best: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” Or just eat what’s in front of you and get over the impulse to compare it to something else.

Katherine Schreiber and Heather Hausenblas Ph.D.    Posted Jun 14, 2016


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10 Ways to Love the People in Your Life

By Tara Sophia Mohr

“At the end of life, our questions are very simple: Did I live fully? Did I love well?”   ~Jack Kornfield

We all grow up with some healthy stories about love and some unhealthy ones. I learned some beautiful, life-giving ideas about love, ideas like these:

  • Loving people means believing in their potential.
  • Love means treating people with kindness and gentleness.
  • Loving the people in your life means celebrating their successes and cheering them on.

But I also grew up with some stories about love that I came to see weren’t so helpful. Those ideas about love bred problems in my relationships.

One of those stories was: Loving someone means always being available to them. (Turns out, it’s not true, and living as if it is breeds resentment.)

Another was: Loving someone means always having space for what they want to talk to you about. (Turns out, not true either!)

Another myth about love: If you love someone, you do what they are asking you to do, out of love, even if it feels difficult. (I can tell you, that doesn’t work so well.)

I’ve developed my own guidelines for loving the people in my life, guidelines that express how I want to relate to the people around me.

These are some of my guidelines for loving:

1. Tell them about their brilliance.

They likely can’t see it and they don’t know its immensity, but you can see it, and you can illuminate it for them.

2. Be authentic, and give others the gift of the real you and a real relationship.

Ask your real questions. Share your real beliefs. Go for your real dreams. Tell your truth.

3. Don’t confuse “authenticity” with sharing every complaint, resentment, or petty reaction in the name of “being yourself.”

Meditate, write, or do yoga to work through anxiety, resentment, and stress on your own so you don’t hand off those negative moods to everyone around you. Sure, share sadness, honest dilemmas, and fears, but be mindful; don’t pollute.

namaste

4. Listen, listen, listen.

Don’t listen to determine if you agree or disagree. Listen to get to know what is true for the person in front of you. Get to know an inner landscape that is different from your own, and enjoy the journey. Remember that if, in any conversation, nothing piqued your curiosity and nothing surprised you, you weren’t really listening.

5. Don’t waste your time or energy thinking about how they need to be different.

Really. Chuck that whole thing. Their habits are their habits. Their personalities are their personalities. Let them be, and work on what you want to change about you—not what you think would be good to change about them.

6. Remember that you don’t have to understand their choices to respect or accept them.

7. Don’t conflate accepting with being a doormat or betraying yourself.

Let them be who they are, entirely. Then, you decide what you need, in light of who they are. Do you need to make a direct request that they change their behavior in some way? Do you need to take care of yourself better? Do you need to set a boundary or to change the relationship? Take care of yourself well, without holding anyone else in contempt.

8. Give of yourself, but never sacrifice or compromise yourself.

Stop if resentment is building and retool. Don’t do the martyr thing. It helps no one and nothing.

9. See their value.

Remember that everyone you encounter was created by divine intelligence and has an important role to play in the universe. Treat them as such.

10. Accept this as your mantra and try to live as if it were true: Everything that I experience from another human being is either love or a call for love.

With this mantra as your guide, you’ll keep growing emotionally and spiritually for the rest of your life.


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11 Ways To Be The Change You Wish To See In The World

BY JO CASEY    JANUARY 7, 2014 

Do you ever get frustrated that the world seems to be on a downward spiral? It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of war, environmental damage and inequality. But there’s a way you can take back your sense of control and power and, as the saying goes, be the change you wish to see in the world.

1. Be grateful.

Not just for the things you have in your world, but for the people too. Tell them how much you love and appreciate them.

2. Show it when you’re thankful.

Had a great service in a restaurant? Did someone say something kind to you just at the very moment you needed a lift? Thank them. Why not give those around you (yes, even those you don’t know very well) the gift of a positive comment?

3. Be joyful.

It can seem like there’s so much negativity in the world: news programs that only show disasters, corruption and arguing politicians, illness, relationship breakdowns, layoffs, conflict. Many of us can get into a funk or worse when we see all the conflict and drama. So provide a counterbalance for those around you, and become a role model for joyful living. This doesn’t mean being a Pollyanna, ignoring pain or laughing at misery. Nor does it mean pretending to be happy when that’s not how you feel inside. But it does mean not being afraid to share your joy. Look at the Dalai Lama — exiled from his country, witness to so much horror and cruelty in his lifetime, yet smiling and joyful.

4. Be kind.

I don’t know why, but kindness seems to be out of fashion in lots of circles, replaced by tough love and blaming people for their misfortunes. It would seem the milk of human kindness is in short supply, according to many newspapers and reality TV shows I see. But I refuse to believe it to be true. Reach out when you see someone fall. Give the kind word. Help with the groceries. Compliment people. Be compassionate. Just be a bit nicer. Don’t let the world grind you down and harden you. Put out what you’d like to get back.

children-hugs

5. Beware of judgment.

We all judge. We all look down on people. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. Don’t beat yourself up for it — just be aware and make sure you don’t act on it. Make sure you challenge yourself when you do. And make sure you’re aware of WHY you judge. When we judge, we dehumanize and reduce someone down to her actions. We do it to make ourselves feel better. Instead of judging, try a bit of empathy. It works wonders.

6. Let go of the need to be right.

How many times have you found yourself in an argument and forgotten what you were arguing about? Ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Where can you find some common ground? Would you rather be right than be happy?

7. Accept things for what they are.

Fighting the things that can’t be change is the surest route to unhappiness. Instead, accept and make the best of your situation, even as you try to make changes.

8. Practice self-compassion.

Being good to yourself will help you to be a kinder, more compassionate person all around. You can’t give to others what you don’t give to yourself.

9. Don’t take your sh*t out on other people.

We all have bad days. We get stressed out. It doesn’t help anyone if you’re snapping, snarling and generally discharging to everyone around you. If you need to blow, take yourself off somewhere quiet and deal with it. Don’t be the cause of someone else’s bad day.

10. Connect with your sense purpose.

When you live and work to your values and purpose, you build joy, resilience and passion. You discover strengths you never knew you had and become a beacon of possibly to others.

11. Look for the good in the world.

It’s all around you. Smile. That’s infectious.