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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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This Year, Consider Giving Presence Instead Of Presents

During the holiday season, many of us feel pressure to find our loved ones the “perfect” gift. Why? Because gift-giving has long been considered a prime way to express love. However, recent research suggests that gestures don’t need to be large or have a hefty price tag to feel meaningful. The study, published this summer in The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, suggests that small acts of kindness, not grand overtures, make people feel most loved and supported.

“Our research found that micro-moments of positivity, like a kind word, cuddling with a child, or receiving compassion make people feel most loved,” says Dr. Zita Oravecz, a professor in human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University and one of the study’s researchers.

In the study, 495 men and women between the ages of 18 and 93 completed a questionnaire evaluating 60 possible ways that people can feel love. Each question began with, “Most people feel loved when…” The scenarios included situations like spending time with friends, receiving gifts, and spending time in nature. The survey also included negative interactions, like being controlled and criticized by others. Oravecz says the findings highlight the psychological benefits that intimate relationships can offer. In fact, study participants ranked human interaction as a more significant expression of love than receiving material items, like presents. Connecting with others was also rated more highly than getting positive feedback on the internet, indicating that people derive the most support from personal human contact. In fact, other studies suggest more time on social media leads to increased feelings of isolation. Yet despite the findings that spending time with friends and family makes us feel good, during hectic times like the holidays, these social interactions can feel burdensome instead of fulfilling. Fatigued from an overload of shopping, spending, and travel, most Americans describe this time of year as stressful instead of magical. In fact, a telephone survey conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that compared to other times of the year, 44 percent of women and 31 percent of men (out of 786 individuals polled) feel more stress during the holidays. In addition, 51 percent of women and 42 percent of men said purchasing and giving gifts added to their distress.

Esther Lui for NPR

Small acts of kindness are what make us feel loved.
 

Any kind of stress can strain relationships and cause us to withdraw from others, but small stressors can be just as trying as larger burdens. A 2015 research study found that daily hassles like working, running errands, and money troubles negatively impact romantic unions, causing people to feel less satisfied and more alone in their relationships. When we’re anxious and fatigued, it can also be more challenging to see someone else’s point of view, which might explain why family feuds seem more likely to arise during the holidays. While prioritizing one’s self-care during the months of November and December may be difficult, adopting a mindset of being present in the moment may help lessen the stress of the season.

“During the holidays, anxiety rises, making it harder to remain present with ourselves and others. However, the power of spending time with another person is a gift we can give at any moment,” says Dr. Carla Naumburg, a mindfulness coach and social worker in Newton, Mass.

While we may associate presence with mindfulness meditation, we don’t need to be Zen masters to create a calmer holiday. Naumburg says we can cultivate presence by cutting back on social media (which helps limit distractions), getting plenty of rest, and taking a pause (and remembering to breathe).

“For everyone, breathing is a small but powerful act that can keep us connected to ourselves by shifting our awareness to the present moment,” she says.

According to The American Institute of Stress, focused breathing elicits the body’s “relaxation response,” slowing one’s heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and helping muscles relax. This physical process aids in repairing an overactive nervous system, helping us to enter a calmer physical and emotional state. Although it can be challenging to forgo doing extra errands during the holidays, Naumburg suggests balancing party planning and online shopping with moments of human connection. Activities like reading to a child, meeting a friend for a walk, or taking a moment to call a family member, are ways to express love and care and can keep us emotionally grounded. While the idea of offering loved ones the gift of our time may pale in comparison to giving them a lavish present, recent empathy research shows shared human experiences can tighten social bonds. Oravecz and her colleagues also found that despite personality differences, most people agree on what makes us feel loved — the presence of our loved ones.

Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga.
December 9, 2017    JULI FRAGA
 
source: www.npr.org
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Owning A Dog Is Good For Your Heart — Study Says What We All Knew

It seems unconditional love from a fluffy, drooling canine is one key to a healthier life — as many people already expected.

A study of more than 3.4-million people revealed that having a dog in the house is linked to living a longer life. The research, published in Scientific Reports by Uppsala University in Sweden, reviewed a national registry of people aged 40 to 80 for up to 12 years. Just over 13 per cent were dog owners.

By evaluating health records, it found that registered dog owners had a lower risk of having heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions. It said owning a dog cuts down the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 36 per cent for people that live alone.

There is a slightly lower benefit to owning a canine for those who don’t live alone — the risk was cut by only 15 per cent. Researchers even considered other factors such as smoking and body weight to make sure the results were as accurate as possible.

While the study stops short of determining a direct “causal effect” between dog ownership and lower heart disease, it indicates that dog owners may have better health because they stay active by walking their pets, even in bad weather.

A new study says owning a dog can lower chances of developing heart problems.

It adds that having a fluffy friend could also help ease feelings of isolation, depression and stress.

“Dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in single households and with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death in the general population,” the study concludes.

And it’s just one of many studies that have come to a similar conclusion about the health benefits of owning a dog.

Earlier this year, a study found that seniors who own a dog spend an average of 22 more minutes per day staying active and take an additional 2,760 steps per day.

Dogs have also been found to improve mental health in children, and help soothe stress for travellers nervous about their flight and students during exams.

— With files from Global News reporter Tania Kohut

By Maham Abedi   National Online Journalist, Breaking News    November 17, 2017
source: Global News


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Fun Fact Friday

  • Within the first two months of legal marijuana sales in Colorado, property crimes decreased by 14%, and homicide rates were down by 67%.

  • Video games train the human brain to make faster real life decisions.

  • A study found that anxiety disengages the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain that plays an important role in flexible decision making.

  • Without your little finger, you would lose 50% of your hand strength.

~ Happy Friday!~

 


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Boost Bacteria to Bolster Your Brain

How can boosting bacteria in your body improve your brain health? Called the “second brain” by leading scientists, a healthy balance of flora in the gut helps to determine whether you’ll have a great memory and a strong resistance to brain disease.

And what happens in the gut plays a significant role in your brain health.  Restoring beneficial bacteria and some healthy yeasts in your intestines (yes, some yeasts are beneficial, just not the ones that cause yeast infections) can go a long way toward protecting your mental faculties and preventing brain diseases altogether.

Frequently when I tell people about this connection between intestinal and brain health—what is known as the gut-brain axis, they tell me that they are covered because they eat yogurt on a regular basis.  While yogurt may (or may not) help boost intestinal flora depending on whether it contains any live cultures at all, we need to give our guts a lot more than yogurt to help us establish a strong and healthy brain for life.

Let’s explore some of the exciting research into the link between beneficial microbes in our gut and our overall brain health.

Some probiotics actually function as antioxidants within the body, which can not only reduce the effects of free radical damage and aging, it is especially good news in the prevention and treatment of brain diseases.

That’s because the brain is vulnerable to free radical damage. Additionally, research at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found that consuming certain strains of probiotics could actually produce many brain health benefits, including improved sensory and emotional processing.

Since the brain plays a significant role in whether we suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, probiotics may also be helpful in addressing these serious health concerns. In animal studies conducted by the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and published in the medical journal Gastroenterology, the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum eliminated anxiety and normalized behavior.  It appeared to work by reducing the excitability of the nerves in the gut that connect through the vagus nerve to the central nervous system, and in doing so, eliminated anxiety.

Hungarian researchers found that intestinal inflammation is one of the key factors involved in depression and that treating the inflammation with probiotics (along with B complex vitamins, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids) reduced depressive symptoms.

Additional French research demonstrates the power of boosting specific strains of probiotics to boost mood and psychological health.  They found that healthy study participants experienced reduced psychological stress, depression, anxiety, and anger and hostility, as well as improved problem-solving skills when taking the Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum for 30 days.

While you can still enjoy yogurt if you are already doing so, please keep in mind that the above strains are not typically found in yogurt.  I’m not aware of any yogurt that contains the best brain-boosting strains.

Take a probiotic supplement containing proven strains of brain-boosting probiotics such as  Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus helveticus on a daily basis.  Store your probiotics in the refrigerator, and take them on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning with a large glass of water tends to work well for most people.

Additionally, kimchi—the national dish of Korea which is typically a fermented mixture of cabbage, chilis, and garlic—frequently contains a much more diverse group of beneficial microbes than yogurt, making it an excellent choice as a brain boosting food. Some types contain fish sauce so if you’re vegan be sure to choose a fish sauce-free option. It is delicious on sandwiches, over brown rice, or as a side-dish to many foods.  Be sure to choose kimchi that hasn’t been pasteurized to ensure the cultures are still intact.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook           October 5, 2017
source: www.care2.com


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This Social Media Behaviour Triples Depression Risk

Depression and anxiety risk much higher in some people using social media.

Using over seven different social media platforms is linked to a tripling in depression risk, psychological research finds.

The study asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

Those who used between 7 and 11 of these, had 3.1 times the depression risk.

They also had 3.3 times the risk of having high levels of anxiety symptoms.

Professor Brian A. Primack, who led the study, said:

“This association is strong enough that clinicians could consider asking their patients with depression and anxiety about multiple platform use and counseling them that this use may be related to their symptoms.
While we can’t tell from this study whether depressed and anxious people seek out multiple platforms or whether something about using multiple platforms can lead to depression and anxiety, in either case the results are potentially valuable.”

There are a number of ways in which using multiple platforms might lead to depression and anxiety, the authors argue:

  • Multitasking is known to lead to poor mental health and weakened thinking skills.
  • Using more platforms might lead to more opportunities for embarrassing mistakes.

Professor Primack said:

“It may be that people who suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety, or both, tend to subsequently use a broader range of social media outlets.
For example, they may be searching out multiple avenues for a setting that feels comfortable and accepting.
However, it could also be that trying to maintain a presence on multiple platforms may actually lead to depression and anxiety.
More research will be needed to tease that apart.”

The results come from a 2014 survey of 1,787 US adults aged between 19 and 32.

source: PsyBlog


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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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Does Too Much Sugar Lead to Depression?

Previous studies have shown that sugar can be just as addictive as cocaine, but recent research suggests the sweet stuff may not be doing any favours for our mental health, either.

According to a recent report by the University College London, published in the Scientific Reports journal, men who consumed a high intake of sweet food and drinks were more likely to develop common mental health disorders like anxiety and depression after five years.

“Our research confirms an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet food/beverage on long-term psychological health and suggests that lower intake of sugar may be associated with better psychological health,” researchers wrote.

Looking into the research

To find patterns between eating sugar and developing mental health disorders, civil participants in the U.K. were monitored between 1985 to 1988, and then were asked to filled out questionnaires ever few years until 2013. The experts studied more than 8,000 people, but a majority of them (around 5,000) were men.

Researchers noted men who consumed more than 67 grams of sugar a day had a 23 per cent increased chance of experiencing a mental health disorder — compared to those who ate less than 39.5 grams per day, the Guardian reports.

But the study has also received some criticism, including the fact that consumption was self-reported, and sugar intake from alcohol was not included.

“The dietary analysis makes it impossible to justify the bold claims made by the researchers about sugar and depression in men,” dietitian Catherine Collins, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, told AFP. “Reducing intake of free sugars is good for your teeth, and may be good for your weight, too. But as protection against depression? It’s not proven.”

 

A new study claims high sugar intake
can lead to depression and anxiety among men.

But previous research also points to similar results — sugar was not good for your mental health. One 2004 report published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found a high intake of refined sugar and dairy increased the risk of depression and was even worse for people who had schizophrenia, Psychology Today reports.

The site adds The Standard American Diet, which is full of fat and sugar, didn’t increase the likelihood of developing anxiety but made anxiety symptoms in individuals worse.

Digging deeper into sugar

Abby Langer, a Toronto-based registered dietitian, says we should take studies like these with a grain of salt.

“[There are] always limitations with a questionnaire,” she tells Global News. “Depression is subjective and the reporting could be subjective.”

She adds the study also didn’t look at the consumption of straight sugar. She says if participants were mostly eating sugary foods, it could have also been the saturated fat, for example, affecting their mental health. “[Research has shown] people who are mentally ill tend to eat more sugar, there is a link for sure, but this study doesn’t prove that sugar is the cause.”

Langer argues instead of focusing so much on sugar, a highly processed diet high in sugar and refined carbs can result in low energy levels. “A diet high in protein, veggies and fruit can help your energy levels,” she says.

Cutting back on sugar this summer

And while criticisms of this particular study doesn’t mean you should load up on sugar, Langer says summer can be a tricky time to limit consumption.

“It is very important to avoid sweetened beverages,” she says. “I know you may want Gatorade, but if you aren’t running a marathon, you don’t need it.”

Iced hot drinks (think iced coffees) and the increased consumption of alcohol during warmer months, can also add up in the long-run. And instead of reaching for ice cream or another trendy summer dessert, opt for seasonal fruit instead.

“Just have frozen desserts less often,” she continues. “Limit the treats to once or twice a week.”

 

 By Arti Patel     July 28, 2017      National Online Journalist, Smart Living      Global News
source: globalnews.ca