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Important Truths About Happiness

If you ask ten different people how to achieve happiness, it’s very likely you will receive ten different answers. Everyone has different views and thoughts about what makes them happy, and in some ways, it’s definitely a uniquely personal journey. However, there are some universal keys and skills for living a truly happy life that can make all the difference.

Personally, I believe happiness should be a subject they teach in school, starting at an early age.

It is, after all, one of our most important life skills, if not the most important. There are proven methods and techniques for being fundamentally happy which can be learned and practiced just like playing the piano. But, unfortunately, unlike piano lessons, happiness lessons aren’t something we commonly engage in.

Growing up, we’re misled to believe that happiness comes to us through success, material things, relationships, achievements, and other external sources. While these things can be wonderful and can contribute to a happy life, they’re only bricks and are not part of the foundation of happiness.

Building a foundation for living a fundamentally happy life across the board takes deliberate effort, knowledge, practice, and the development of habits that support happiness from within, even through dark times.

Like so many, I spent years and years of my life as an achievement junkie, chasing happiness, finding it in small, temporary doses through external sources. While these things would bring temporary highs, I would always find myself returning to a basic setting of lack and emotional mediocrity.

It wasn’t until my early thirties that I finally realized my strategy wasn’t working.

I finally changed course, turned within, and through dedicated practice and working with some wildly inspiring mentors, I discovered how to change my core emotional setting to one of overall happiness and peace. Since then, my life has drastically changed. I no longer go through long periods of darkness, there are more good days because I have learned to create them that way, and I have a much easier time bouncing back from setbacks and hard times.

While there are many elements to building a foundation for lasting happiness, including the practices of mindfulness, gratitude, self-acceptance, and love, there are three important truths about happiness that have stood out to me as things that often go unrecognized, but once understood, can change the way we think about and approach happiness.

The first is that being sad now and then is actually part of a happy, balanced life.

It’s a complete myth that truly happy people never feel depressed, defeated, or distraught. On top of this, we often tend to beat ourselves up for having these feelings instead of surrendering and allowing them to flow through. It’s about learning to recognize that there are valuable lessons to be learned from any life situation, and knowing that underneath everything you are guided and loved. It’s also about going within and feeling grateful for those opportunities, and learning how to deliberately find joy, even in the smallest doses, during the tough situations.

People often ask me how I am so damn happy all the time.

The answer is I’m not, but I have learned to find joy, peace, and lessons within the sad times, which helps me bounce back that much faster. And, I always know my happiness is the foundation of my life, even on the not-so-great days.

The second truth is that being happy is a way of life that takes deliberate hard work, concentration, and practice. Sometimes you even have to struggle and fight for it by defending personal boundaries and making hard decisions.

The good news is that the more you work at it, the better you get and it will begin to come naturally.

There are happiness muscles, and the more you work them and keep working them, the stronger they get and the more they will support you. This is a concept I wish I’d come to know much earlier in life.

You can learn to be a happier person just like you can learn to play a game of chess.

In chess, you learn and develop skills and strategies for setting yourself up for success, deciding exactly what to do when pieces are lost, and how to bounce back when the going gets tough. Being happy works very much the same.


Finally, being happy is much more physical than you would think.

It’s true that it comes from within, but everything physical, from what you eat to physical activity to simple physical acts like cracking a smile affect energy levels and brain chemistry, directly impacting our level of happiness. Aristotle said, “Happiness is a state of activity.” He was absolutely right.

Happiness is not just something we feel, it’s something we do.

Next time you feel down or anxiety ridden, think activity. Start working on a project you’ve been putting off, get some exercise, meditate, put on some music and do a happy dance, down some ultra healthy food, even just move around a bit and do some stretching. The results are immediate. Do these things daily and your level of overall happiness will increase drastically.

Take on the challenge of building yourself a solid foundation of happiness practices and skills that will be there to support you in living your happiest life. Ultimately, being happy is a conscious choice we must make on a daily (and sometimes even moment by moment) basis.

You can absolutely change your internal setting to one that idles regularly on happiness and joy, but it does take effort.

Be willing. Make it a project. Start with small changes. Read books on how to be happy to see what resonates with you. Create practices in your life that make you feel happy, keep them up, and don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect at it. We’re all works in progress, which is part of what makes life a beautiful adventure.

by Kristi Ling           02/2016


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10 Secrets to Living a Long, Healthy Life

Super agers are a group of older adults who have cognitive abilities on par with people decades younger than them. From what you should eat to how you should exercise and who you should spend your time with, these are things they’re doing on the regular.

Never smoke

Smoking will trim off up to a dozen years of your life, suggests 2013 research in the New England Journal of Medicine. In fact, if you never smoked, you’re twice as likely as a current smoker to see 80 candles decorate your birthday cake. What’s more, the habit is linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, says research. If you smoke, there’s no better time than now to quit.

Dine on fish and chicken

When Thomas Perls, MD, MPH, the director of the New England Centenarian Study and a professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston Medical Center works with patients, he tells them to go easy on the beef and pork. Not only is a high intake of red meat linked with cancer, but the saturated fat in the meat may also harm your brain, per 2012 research in the Annals of Neurology. It’s fine if you’d like to eat it on occasion, of course, but limit it to twice a week, he advises. The rest of the week, lean toward fish, poultry, and heaps of veggies.

Lift weights

Rather than focusing on burning calories with cardio equipment, build strength with weights. There are at least a dozen feel-good benefits that kick in when you pick up a dumbbell. But lifting also maintains muscle and bone mass to protect against frailty—and prevent falls—when you get older. It also keeps your mind limber. One randomized-controlled study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that when women having memory problems did twice-weekly weight training for six months, they improved measures of attention and memory compared to those who did balance exercises.

Pal around

It’s not enough to simply exercise, you have to stay active in general. And one of the ways you can get the most out of it is to pick those that you can do with others. Because taking an evening stroll with neighbors offers far more benefits than stretching your legs: “Socialization is cognitively stimulating,” says Dr. Perls. Chatting with friends, challenging each other, and offering support helps your brain lay down new neural networks that keeps your brain young.

Check your eating

It sounds so boring, right? But if you have a healthy weight, you’re already so far ahead. “Obesity is such a potent and important cause of numerous age-related diseases, like adult-onset diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke,” says Dr. Perls. What’s more, obesity has also been linked with dementias and Alzheimer’s disease, as having a greater fat mass is associated with higher blood levels of amyloid proteins, which are linked to cognitive decline.

Play a mind game

There’s a lesson in always learning something new: It doesn’t just keep life exciting, but it keeps you sharp as you age, studies suggest. Try one of these 14 brain challenges—because “use it or lose it” seems to apply to your brain as much as your muscles. A study in 2013 asked one group of older adults to quilt, another learned digital photography, and a third did both activities for 16 hours a week over three months. Those who took up the “cognitively demanding” task of learning digital photography sharpened their memory more so than those who honed their old quilting skills. What have you always wanted to do but thought you weren’t going to be good enough? That’s exactly what will keep your brain young for years to come.

Eat more berries

Berries are one of the cornerstones of the MIND diet, a hybrid between the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet that can keep your brain 7.5 years younger, shows research. Among all the other fruits, they’ve been singled out thanks to past research that showed intakes of blueberries and strawberries were associated with better brain health. The sweet little fruits are rich in anthocyanins, antioxidant plant compounds that preserves neuronal pathways involved in memory and cognition. Aim to eat at least two servings per week. And if you’re looking for new ways to eat berries, try them in a delicious fruit smoothie.

Ease stress

Stress is a given, but know you have a choice to change your circumstances and limit the bad vibes from festering. “Stress that continues for a long time, a condition known as chronic stress, is toxic to your brain – it literally eats away at critical brain regions,” writes neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, in the Guardian. (She’s one of the authors on a new study on super agers published in the Journal of Neuroscience.) Barrett suggests leaving negative things behind. It can be as little as changing jobs or taking relaxing vacations.

Tipple lightly

Do you need these 17 tips to help cut back on alcohol? Consider this: In a study on cognitively healthy 65-year-olds published in PLOS Medicine in 2017, those who reported light or moderate drinking scored higher on a test measuring cognitive functioning compared to teetotalers. The key is light. Another study showed that people who have 14 to 21 drinks per week experienced more shrinkage in the hippocampus, an area of the brain related to memory. What’s more, their research didn’t show that light drinking was protective. Until the research is definitive, stick to the recommended one drink a day for women and two for men.

Keep perspective

It’s all about your attitude, right? It’s easy to brush off health issues as being all about your genes, and something that’s not under your control. But Dr. Perls says the decisions you make every day can have a huge impact on your lifespan. The average life expectancy in the U.S. is about 79 years old, but he says that can be much longer. “I think the vast majority of the reason someone lives to 90 is lifestyle behaviors. That’s a really optimistic view of aging, but it’s possible,” he says. Knowing that your daily choices matter—and can tack on almost a dozen good, sharp years on your life—can help you build on habits that will get you well into your golden years.

BY JESSICA MIGALA
source: www.rd.com


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The Best Health Advice Ever

The Best Health Advice Ever

Keeping your mind and body in tip-top shape is essential for living your best life. It’s difficult to attain success when you’re dragging yourself through the day, feeling stressed out, anxious, and generally unwell. That’s why you need to make yourself a priority. Focusing on your wellness is not selfish, it’s necessary for you to be able to give your best self to others. The Cheat Sheet spoke with six leading health experts about the best health advice they’ve ever received.

1. Let go of unforgiveness

Learn to forgive! At the heart of many chronic diseases is stress. At the heart of much stress is a lack of forgiveness. Not being able to let go of the past produces a lot of stress in our lives. This stress increases the incidence of hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and more.

My advice for men: Don’t be embarrassed to see your doctor if you ever have an episode of erectile dysfunction. After your first episode of ED you have a 25% chance of having a stroke or heart attack in the next five years. See your doctor immediately and start to change your lifestyle with diet change and exercise to reduce your risk.

Dr. Chidi Ngwaba, Director at the European Society of Lifestyle Medicine

 2. Get enough sleep

Medical training can be grueling with some weeks lasting 110+ hours on the job. The lecture I had on sleep hygiene and making sure to set aside time for sleep was the best health advice I’d ever received. All-nighters or just neglecting sleep creates havoc on your health and happiness.

Dr. Jared Heathman, Psychiatrist

3. You are in control of your health

The best health advice I ever received is to recognize that I am the expert in my own health. I will meet many professionals and hear many opinions, but I am the only person who will have to live with the consequences, and I am the one who knows my body and my mind the best. So it is up to me to listen to the input and decide what will serve me best. This has allowed me to live my life with amazing freedom and to let the outside judgments roll off of me as I know that I am doing what is best for me.

Crystal Johnson, MSc, MCP, RSLP, RCC, Registered Clinical Counselor

4. Take preventative health measures

Be able to do 25 push-ups. This doesn’t sound like very profound advice, but it may have changed my life. I tried out for the wrestling team at age 13, never having thought about exercising before. At try-outs, the coach said we should all be able to do at least 25 push-ups (and a certain number of sit-ups). I tried, and found I could do about five! I started working out that day — and have worked out almost every day for the 40 years since. I can do considerably more than 25 push-ups now. I think it’s idiosyncratic that this had such an affect on me, but the clarity, the specificity, and the practicality of it really resonated. It suggests we might all benefit from specific, actionable goals related to our health and fitness.

My advice for men: Think beyond your own skin. As a son, brother, husband, and especially father — what you do about your own health will influence others. The most important reason to protect your own health may be somebody else — like a son or daughter who will emulate you. It has always been ‘guy stuff’ to defend hearth and home. These days, the wolves at the door are diabetes, obesity, and so on. We can best defend against them by walking the walk ourselves — and leading our families toward vitality. So I’m calling on my fellow sons, brothers, and dads to step up accordingly!

Dr. David L. Katz, MPH, FACPM, FACP, Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, Griffin Hospital

5. Eat real food — and then take a walk

The best health advice I’ve gotten is eat food, but not too much — mostly plants. It comes from author Michael Pollan. I love this advice because it’s so simple and clear, yet so incredibly effective. If this is the only eating advice you follow, your diet will be fantastic!

Second, move. If you have a desk job, get up every hour and move for at least two minutes. While working out is great, our bodies are designed to move throughout the day. Sitting all day, even if you exercise, is bad for your health. Studies show that sedentary behavior can lead to death from cardiovascular issues and cancer and cause chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Ellen Albertson, PhD, RDN, CD, Psychologist, Nutritionist, Certified Wellcoach, Founder, SmashYourScale.com    Twitter: @eralbertson

 6. Don’t forget mental health

Stress, anxiety, episodes of sadness, and depression are very common and can have a negative impact on physical health. Healthy eating, sleep, and exercise are all crucial. [Practice] daily mindfulness or meditation — even 5 to 10 minutes a day. End each day recognizing the positive and the things that make you happy. Increase your brain’s receptiveness to positivity. I like using the idea that we go through the day collecting negativity in an imaginary “BAG.” At the end of the day you can empty the BAG and refill it with the letters BAG by answering these three questions: B — What was the Best part of the day and why? A — What did I Accomplish, why was it important to me today? And G — What am I truly Grateful for?

Cara Maksimow, licensed clinical social worker, speaker, and owner of Maximize Wellness Counseling & Coaching LLC

Sheiresa Ngo     October 27, 2016
 


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The Simple Treatment That Beats Antidepressants

Two-thirds of people with major depression were no longer depressed after this treatment.

A brisk walk three times a week can actually beat antidepressant medication in treating major depression, research finds.

The results come from a study on three groups of elderly people with major depressive disorder.

One group were given the exercise, another given antidepressant medication and the third both.

The results showed that all three groups improved the same amount.

Professor James Blumenthal, the study’s first author, said:

“One of the conclusions we can draw from this is that exercise may be just as effective as medication and may be a better alternative for certain patients.”

The results showed that after exercise almost two-thirds of participants were no longer depressed after 16 weeks.

One of the problems with exercise is that it may take a little longer to take effect.

Professor Blumenthal said:

“While we don’t know why exercise confers such a benefit, this study shows that exercise should be considered as a credible form of treatment for these patients.
Almost one-third of depressed patients in general do not respond to medications, and for others, the medications can cause unwanted side effects.
Exercise should be considered a viable option.”

Exercise could be particularly beneficial because people are taking an active role, rather than passively taking a pill, Professor Blumenthal said:

“Simply taking a pill is very passive.
Patients who exercised may have felt a greater sense of mastery over their condition and gained a greater sense of accomplishment.
They felt more self-confident and had better self-esteem because they were able to do it themselves, and attributed their improvement to their ability to exercise.
These findings could change the way some depressed patients are treated, especially those who are not interested in taking anti-depressants.
While these medications have been proven to be effective, many people want to avoid the side effects or are looking for a more ‘natural’ way of feeling better.”

The antidepressant tested in the study was sertraline, which is marketed as Zoloft.

The study was published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine (Blumenthal et al., 1999).

 source: PsyBlog


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Here’s How to Make Yourself Love Exercise

It’s not just you: Many people are turned off by the thought of exercise because they think it has to be intense or time-consuming. But the findings of a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health suggests that people could learn to enjoy being active simply by tweaking those beliefs and expectations.

So says the study’s lead author Michelle Segar, director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center, who’s spent years researching what motivates people to get and stay physically fit. (She’s also author of  No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.) Too often, she says, people begin exercise programs to lose weight, and quit when they don’t shed pounds right away.

In her new study, she and her colleagues asked 40 women about what really makes them feel happy and successful. Then they analyzed how their views about working out either fostered or undermined those feelings. The diverse group of women were all between ages 22 and 49.

All of the women—whether they were regular exercisers or not—turned out to want the same things out of life: to have meaningful connections with others, to feel relaxed and free of pressure during their leisure time and to accomplish the goals they’d set for themselves, whether in their personal lives, their careers or simply their daily to-do lists.

The big difference, the researchers found, was that women who were inactive viewed exercise as counterproductive to those things. In order for exercise to be valid, they thought, it had to be seriously heart-pumping and sweat-inducing—the complete opposite of the “relaxing” feeling they wanted from their free time.

They also felt that following an exercise program took up too much time and put too much pressure on them, and that it was too difficult to commit to a schedule and meet expectations, leaving them feeling like failures.

But women in the study who were regularly active didn’t share these views. For them, exercise went hand-in-hand with their desires for social connectivity, relaxing leisure time and feeling accomplished.

That shift in mindset has to happen for women who aren’t currently active, says Segar. “These women feel alienated by exercise, or feel that they’ve failed when they tried it in the past,” she says. “They have a very narrow definition of what exercise should look like.”

Segar says that definition comes from decades of messaging from fitness companies and older scientific research that suggesting that high-intensity activity is the only way for exercise to be worthwhile. “That’s no longer true,” she says. “The new recommendations for physical activity really open the door for people to pretty much do anything that works for them.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that for “substantial health benefits,” adults should get 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. It’s true that additional benefits can be gained from more (or more intense) exercise, but Segar says this is a good starting point for many Americans who currently lead sedentary lives.

Instead of thinking about exercise as an alternative to enjoying free time or socializing with friends, she recommends framing it as a way to make those things happen. “Women need to give themselves permission to use physical activity as a way to relax—to get together with friends or loved ones and take a leisurely stroll, simply because being active and outdoors boosts their mood and makes them feel good.”

While walking is an easy way to squeeze in more movement throughout the day, she also encourages people to get creative. “If you liked biking as a kid, rent a bike and see if it still feels good,” she says. “Play tag with your kids, take a dance class or even just climb the stairs a few extra times while you’re doing chores around the house.”Most importantly, Segar says, people need to know that any physical activity is better than no physical activity. “You don’t have to do 30 minutes at a time, you don’t have to sweat and you don’t have to hate whatever it is you’re doing,” she says. “You just have to choose to move when you see opportunities.”

 

Amanda MacMillan       May 30, 2017
source: TIME Health


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Putting Off The Important Things? It’s Not For The Reasons You Think

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do now,
especially if you’re holding back in the hope of doing it properly

All you really need to succeed, according to the writer-philosopher Robert Pirsig, who died last month, is gumption. “Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going,” he writes, in a rare part of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance that’s actually about motorcycle maintenance. (Well, and the whole of human existence, too – but that’s always the case with Pirsig.) “If you haven’t got any, there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it, there’s absolutely no way in the world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed.” The biggest dangers, accordingly, are what he calls “gumption traps”: seemingly minor external events, or ways of thinking, that play a disproportionate role in depleting it. There are “maybe millions” of these, he writes. But there’s one I fall into far more often than others. You might call it the Importance Trap.

This is hardly a brand new insight – but then, as Pirsig liked to point out, looking for new insights can be a fool’s errand; what you want are the ones that make a difference. The Importance Trap refers to the way that, the more an activity really matters to you, the more you start to believe you need focus, energy and long stretches of uninterrupted time in which to do it – things that, you tell yourself, you currently lack. And so the less likely you are to do it. Unimportant stuff gets done; important stuff doesn’t.

Take reading. “If you’re only going to open a book on the off-chance you have several hours to kill in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch,” wrote Kevin Nguyen in GQ recently, “it’s only going to happen when you have several hours to kill in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch.” That’s classic Importance Trap thinking. We tend to think of procrastination as being motivated by more melodramatic emotions: fear of failure, the terror of being judged, etc. Yet sometimes the mere desire to do something properly is the reason you’re not doing it.

A close cousin of the Importance Trap – for me, anyway – is the Consistency Trap: the assumption that something’s not worth doing until your life’s arranged to do it regularly. No point going on a protest march, or rekindling a neglected friendship, unless you can turn yourself into the kind of person who does that all the time. This is absurd, firstly because such things are worth doing in themselves, and second because you definitely won’t become the kind of person who does them if you never even do them once.

The irony, I’ve found, is that the only way to obtain the things you imagine are the preconditions for acting – high energy, a sense of concentration – is to start acting. (“Motivation follows action”, as the saying goes.) So when you catch yourself telling yourself you’ll do something later, once you’re refreshed and ready, take it as a prod to do it now. You might think you need to wait for more gumption – but in fact that very thought is a hole in your fuel tank, through which the gumption’s leaking away.

oliver.burkeman@theguardian.com     @oliverburkeman      Friday 19 May 2017


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How To Get Happier Now With Almost No Effort

You can lift your spirits without a gym membership, wearing Lycra or even leaving the house.

For sedentary people, getting out of the chair is enough to improve happiness, new research finds.

It turns out that very light activity is surprisingly effective in raising people’s level of well-being.

Mr Gregory Panza, the study’s first author, said:

“…simply going from doing no physical activity to performing some physical activity can improve their subjective well-being.
What is even more promising for the physically inactive person is that they do not need to exercise vigorously to see these improvements.
Instead, our results indicate you will get the best ‘bang for your buck’ with light or moderate intensity physical activity.”

Light physical activity is equivalent to a leisurely walk.

The kind of walk that doesn’t make you sweat, breathe faster or even change your heart rate.

Moderate activity is walking fast enough to nudge up your vital signs for around 15 minutes.

It’s amazing how little
you have to do
to make yourself happier right now.

Vigorous exercise is equivalent to going for a jog.

The study looked at 419 healthy, middle-aged adults.

The biggest gains in happiness were seen among those who were the most sedentary and then did some light or moderate physical activity.

People who sat around a lot had the most to gain.

Mr Panza said:

“The ‘more is better’ mindset may not be true when it comes to physical activity intensity and subjective well-being.
In fact, an ‘anything is better’ attitude may be more appropriate if your goal is a higher level of subjective well-being.”
People doing vigorous activity did not see increases in their happiness.
This is the reverse of a recent study that found vigorous activity can actually decrease mental well-being.
Dr Beth Taylor, a study author, said:
“Recent studies had suggested a slightly unsettling link between vigorous activity and subjective well-being.

We did not find this in the current study, which is reassuring to individuals who enjoy vigorous activity and may be worried about negative effects.”

The study was published in the Journal of Health Psychology (Panza et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog