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Connecting the Dots Between Physical and Emotional Health

There’s a link between your emotional health and your physical well-being, so take time to nurture both.

To be completely healthy, you should take care not only of your physical health, but your emotional health, too. If one is neglected, the other will suffer.

What’s the Connection Between Emotional and Physical Health?

There’s a physical connection between what the mind is thinking and those parts of the brain that control bodily functions. According to Charles Goodstein, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine in New York City, the brain is intimately connected to our endocrine system, which secretes hormones that can have a powerful influence on your emotional health. “Thoughts and feelings as they are generated within the mind [can influence] the outpouring of hormones from the endocrine system, which in effect control much of what goes on within the body,” says Dr. Goodstein.

“As a matter of fact, it’s very probable that many patients who go to their physician’s office with physical complaints have underlying depression,” he says. People who visit their doctors reporting symptoms of headache, lethargy, weakness, or vague abdominal symptoms often end up being diagnosed with depression, even though they do not report feelings of depression to their doctors, says Goodstein.

While unhappy or stressed-out thoughts may not directly cause poor physical health, they may be a contributing factor and may explain why one person is suffering physically while someone else is not, Goodstein adds.

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How Exactly Does the Mind Affect the Body?

There are many ways in which the mind has a significant impact on the body. Here are a few:

  • Chronic illness and depression Depression has been shown to increase the risk for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, according to an article published in 2013 in the Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. A review of studies on diabetes and depression, published in August 2015 in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, found that depression put people at a 41 percent higher risk for the condition. Researchers aren’t yet clear on how mental health influences physical health, but according to a study published in September 2017 in the journal Psychiatria Danubina, it may be that depression affects the immune system, and that habits associated with depression, such as poor diet or lack of physical activity, may create conditions for illness to occur.
  • Depression and longevity According to a review published in June 2014 in World Psychiatry, many major mental illnesses are associated with higher rates of death. Another study, published in October 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggests that those with depression may have life spans from about 7 to 18 years shorter than the general population.
  • Physical symptoms of emotional health distress People who are clinically depressed often have physical symptoms, such as constipation, lack of appetite, insomnia, or lethargy, among others.
  • White-coat syndrome This is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure increases the minute they step into a doctor’s office. In white-coat syndrome, anxiety is directly related to physical function — blood pressure. “If you extrapolate from that, you can say, what other kinds of anxieties are these people having that are producing jumps in blood pressure? What is the consequence of repeated stress?” asks Goodstein.

And on the other hand: “Those individuals who have achieved a level of mental health where they can manage better the inevitable conflicts of human life are more likely to prevail in certain kinds of physical illness,” says Goodstein.

How Should You Care for Your Emotional and Physical Well-Being?

It’s hard to do, but slowing down and simplifying routines can go a long way to strengthening your mental and physical health.

  • Eat right. A healthy, regular diet is good for the body and mind.
  • Go to bed on time. Losing sleep is hard on your heart, may increase weight, and definitely cranks up the crankiness meter.
  • If you fall down, get back up. Resilience in the face of adversity is a gift that will keep on giving both mentally and physically.
  • Go out and play. Strike a balance between work and play. Yes, work is a good thing: It pays the bills. However, taking time out for relaxation and socializing is good for your emotional health and your physical health.
  • Exercise. A study published in October 2017 in Reviews in the Neurosciences shows that exercise improves your mood and has comprehensive benefits for your physical health.
  • See the right doctor, regularly. Going to the right doctor can make all the difference in your overall health, especially if you have a complicated condition that requires a specialist. But if your emotions are suffering, be open to seeing a mental health professional, too.

Total health depends on a healthy mind and body. Take time to nurture both.

By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Kathryn Keegan, MD
11/14/2017
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The Benefits of Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

We shortchange our well-being by reserving this resource just for Thanksgiving.

“When I look back on the suffering in my life, this may sound really strange, but I see it now as a gift. I would have never asked for it for a second. I hated it while it was happening and I protested as loudly as I could, but suffering happened anyway. Now, in retrospect I see the way in which it deepened my being immeasurably.” ~Ram Dass

It’s that time of year. In addition to providing an opportunity to gather with family and friends to gorge ourselves on food and football, Thanksgiving is an annual culturally compelled celebration of our various blessings—a specific occasion to “give thanks.” As meaningful as this holiday can be and as helpful as it is to have structured encouragement to express gratitude, once a year is quite simply not enough. The bio-psycho-social-spiritual benefits of gratitude are myriad. Cultivating conscious contact with gratitude is a skill, and we can profit immensely by learning and practicing it.

Gratitude is about feeling and expressing appreciation: for all we’ve received, all that we have (however little it may be), and for all that has not befallen us. It functions as an antidote for attachment to what we want but don’t have and aversion to what we have but don’t want. Gratitude is the opposite of being discontented.

It’s valuable to be aware that nearly all experiences have both “positive” and “negative” aspects. Consistent with the above quote from Ram Dass, even circumstances that are brutally physically and/or emotionally painful, often contain considerable psycho-spiritual blessings in the forms of learning, growth, and healing. Sometimes we have to work harder to locate the positive and unearth its gifts (and sometimes these become manifest only in retrospect)—but if we make the time and invest the energy to look closely and search consciously, we will find them. There is always something to be grateful for, no matter how negative or desperate things may seem.

Gratitude changes perspective—it can sweep away most of the petty, day-to-day annoyances on which we focus so much of our attention—the “small stuff” situations that bring up feelings of impatience, intolerance, negative judgment, indignation, anger, or resentment. Gratitude is a vehicle to diffuse self-pity and self-centeredness, increase feelings of well-being, and prompt mindful awareness of that which is beyond oneself—of belonging to a greater whole, and of connection to others, as well as to the world.

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Over the past decade, numerous scientific studies have documented a wide range of benefits that come with gratitude. These are available to anyone who practices being grateful, even in the midst of adversity, such as elderly people confronting death, those with cancer, people with chronic illness or chronic pain, and those in recovery from addiction. Research-based reasons for practicing gratitude include:

•    Gratitude facilitates contentment. Practicing gratitude is one of the most reliable methods for increasing contentment and life satisfaction. It also improves mood by enhancing feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions. Conversely, gratitude also reduces anxiety and depression.

•    Gratitude promotes physical health. Studies suggest gratitude helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, reduce symptoms of illness, and make us less bothered by aches and pains.

•    Gratitude enhances sleep. Grateful people tend to get more sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more rested upon awakening. If you want to sleep more soundly, instead of counting sheep count your blessings.

•    Gratitude strengthens relationships. It makes us feel closer and more connected to friends and intimate partners. When partners feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship.

•    Gratitude encourages “paying it forward.” Grateful people are generally more helpful, generous of spirit, and compassionate. These qualities often spill over onto others.

Two specific ways you can practice the skill of being grateful are by writing gratitude letters and making gratitude lists. A gratitude letter is one you write to someone in your life to express appreciation for ways they have helped you and/or been there for you. Gratitude letters can be about events that have happened in the past or are happening in the present, and often help to strengthen or repair relationships. A gratitude list consists of writing down 3 – 5 things for which you’re grateful every day, each week, at other intervals, or under situation-specific circumstances.

You can test the effectiveness of these methods by tuning in to your current emotion(s), mood, and attitude. Once you’ve done that, take a few minutes and identify 3 things or people that you are grateful for and briefly describe to yourself or in writing the reason(s) for your gratitude. Then notice how the way you feel has shifted after doing this simple brief exercise.

For five years during the 1990s, I was the clinical director of a hospital-based addiction treatment program outside of New York City. I worked closely with the program’s medical director, a psychiatrist who was in recovery for many years through a twelve-step program.

At a conference on addiction he gave a talk that focused on his personal recovery experience. During a powerful and moving presentation, he described being grateful that he was an addict. He went on to say that, in contrast to most people who operate more or less on automatic pilot and effectively sleepwalk through life, embarking on a process of recovery had given him the awareness to live life much more intentionally. As a result, he took little for granted and appreciated much. Although his reasoning made sense, it was difficult for me to comprehend the idea of having such profound gratitude for an experience that involved so much suffering . . . until I found my way to my own recovery.

There are no guarantees of anything and we can take nothing for granted in this life. Every day is a gift; every breath is a gift. What we do with them is a choice.

by Dan Mager, MSW       Nov 18, 2014
Dan Mager, MSW is the author of
Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain.
He received his MSW from Hunter College.
In Print:  Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain
 


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Why ‘2-minute Mornings’ Might Be More Effective Than New Year’s Resolutions

A fool-proof way of sticking to your New Year’s resolution

Author Neil Pasricha takes us through new ways to cultivate happiness and success in 2018.

Neil Pasricha would like to see the end of New Year’s resolutions.

The motivational speaker and bestselling author of “The Book of Awesome” and “The Happiness Equation” says the problem with resolutions is that they tend to be vague and are thus doomed to fail.

“I don’t think resolutions work. I know they don’t work from the research, and I don’t think they’re doing us much good because if you start a resolution and you fail, you just feel worse about yourself,” he told CTV’s Your Morning Wednesday.

The reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail is that they are just goals, not specific plans of action, Pasricha believes. What we need instead are systems that will force us to change our bad behaviours and create new habits.

“Systems beat goals every time,” Pasricha said, and added that if we truly want change, we have to force ourselves to change.

“So if you want to lose 10 pounds, maybe sell your car and walk to work. Now you have no car, so the system is, how will you get to work?” he explained. Any plan that regiments us into new habits will eventually force a shift in behaviour, he said.

One change in habits that Pasricha recently developed for himself is what he calls “two-minute mornings.” Every morning, Pasricha forces himself to take two minutes and “invest” them into reflection and planning out the rest of his day.

“The way I look at it is we are awake for about 1,000 minutes a day. My challenge for myself is to take two minutes to make the other 998 more effective, more productive and more positive,” he explained.

During those two minutes, he forces himself to write out the answers to three prompts: one for looking back; one for being mindful of the right now; and one to look ahead to what’s next. They are:

“I will let go of…”
“I am grateful for…”
“I will focus on…”

The first prompt is a time for some unloading of stress and guilt and a little self-forgiveness– not unlike what Catholics engage in when they step into a confessional.

“We all carry around anxieties and stresses. All of us do. If you think you don’t, you’re lying,” Pasricha said.

By reflecting on what needs to be let go, we can unload some of the stress we needlessly place on ourselves, and perhaps stop comparing ourselves to unfair standards.

The next prompt is designed to move away from guilt, stress and negativity and place the focus on all the things that are good about our lives right now.

Even though we live in a time of great abundance, with longer lifespans than ever, more technology, advanced health care, and less warfare, we’re more stressed and anxious than ever, Pasricha said. By focusing on what we’re grateful for, we can remind ourselves how lucky we are.

“If you focus on the positive, you’ll keep looking for it every day,” Pasricha said.

Finally, he said it’s important to set three small, achievable goals a day. Things such as: calling or emailing a friend; going for an evening walk; being friendly with cashiers and asking them about their day.

The aim is to create bite-sized goals that you then check off as accomplishments at the end of the day

“Take the endless list of things you could do, and narrow it down to three things you will do that day,” Pasricha advised.

Angela Mulholland, Staff writer   @AngeMulholland     December 27, 2017
 


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4 Scientifically Proven Tips to Improve Your Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy in their lives, but it isn’t always easy. You may take drastic measures — try to buy new things, meet new people, uproot your life, but nothing changes. But being happy starts in your mind, so you have to give your mind what it needs first. If you’re looking for some foolproof ways to improve your life, here are 4 scientific tips on how to boost happiness, starting in your brain.

EXPERIENCE GRATITUDE
Studies have shown time and time again that expressing gratitude and humility for the good qualities in your life can make you happier on a chemical level. Gratitude stimulates the brain to create dopamine and feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin. By expressing your gratitude to people you are grateful for, you in turn create a positive social relationship with those around you that keeps on giving.

EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS
Whether it’s through verbal language, writing or some other form of art, expressing what your innermost feelings are can have an instant effect on your life outlook. Often, our deepest emotions can get blurred while they’re still whirling around in our minds. By putting your emotions out there, you can take a step back — look, read or watch — and begin to understand your feelings for what they really are. This allows your brain the space to analyze and process emotions, which often reveals that they are not as intense or dire as you may have previously thought. Expressing your emotions allows you to put everything into perspective.

GIVE UP PERFECTION
While worrying about your problems can seem productive — at least it’s on your mind, right? — it gets you nowhere in the long run. Instead of struggling and stressing over making the best decision possible, you are far better off making any decision rather than worrying over it. Making a decision moves you forward. Worrying does not. Once you’ve made a decision, your brain will immediately feel more at peace. While making a bad decision is not encouraged, making one that is good enough but not ideal is probably the best way to go in terms of reducing stress and increasing happiness. A good enough decision activates a different part of the brain than an ideally perfect decision. The former activates the prefrontal cortex, which controls logic, while the latter activates more emotional portions of the brain which can make us feel less in control. An active decision also increases dopamine production, meaning it actually makes you happier, regardless of what you have decided.

ENJOY HUMAN TOUCH
Human contact is a powerful force in the body. It can boost the immune system, increase trust, improve learning and — you guessed it — boost your happiness and wellbeing. Human touch like a hug releases oxytocin in the brain, which actually works to facilitate intimacy and social bonding. Feeling like you have a network of trustworthy people around you can do wonders to improve your happiness. Go for long hugs, if appropriate. Those stimulate the most oxytocin production.

Being happy starts in the brain. By being true to yourself and others, you can live a happier life, accompanied by other great side effects — like stronger social connections, stronger feelings of self-worth and a more positive outlook on life. Of course, listening to good music or drawing a hot bath are great mood quick fixes, too, but true happiness starts at your core.

 source: www.care2.com


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Hang Out With Happy People — It Might Be Contagious

You can actually catch a good mood or a bad mood from your friends, according to a recent study in the journal Royal Society Open Science. But that shouldn’t stop you from hanging out with pals who are down in the dumps, say the study authors: Thankfully, the effect isn’t large enough to push you into depression.

The new study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that happiness and sadness—as well as lifestyle and behavioral factors like smoking, drinking, obesity, fitness habits and even the ability to concentrate—can spread across social networks, both online and in real life. But while many previous studies have only looked at friendship data at one point in time, this is one of the few that measured social and mood changes over time.

This method was able to show how friends actually influenced each other, and helped rule out the possibility that similarities between friends exist simply because people tend to gravitate toward and hang out with others like themselves.The new research involved groups of junior-high and high-school students who took part in depression screenings and answered questions about their best friends, many of whom were also enrolled in the study. In total, 2,194 students were included in the analysis, which used a mathematical model to look for connections among friend networks.

Overall, kids whose friends suffered from bad moods were more likely to report bad moods themselves—and they were less likely to have improved when they were screened again six months to a year later. When people had more happy friends, on the other hand, their moods were more likely to improve over time.

Some symptoms related to depression—like helplessness, tiredness and loss of interest—also seemed to follow this pattern, which scientists call “social contagion.” But this isn’t something sneaky and insidious that people need to worry about, says lead author Robert Eyre, a doctoral student at the University of Warwick’s Center for Complexity Science. Rather, it’s likely just a “normal empathetic response that we’re all familiar with, and something we recognize by common sense,” he says.

In other words, when a friend is going through a rough patch, it makes sense that you’ll feel some of their pain, and it’s certainly not a reason to stay away. But the fact that these negative feelings do spread across networks does have important health implications, says Eyre.

“The good news from our work is that following the evidence-based advice for improving mood—like exercise, sleeping well and managing stress—can help your friends too,” he says.

The study also found that having friends who were clinically depressed did not increase participants’ risk of becoming depressed themselves. “Your friends do not put you at risk of illness,” says Eyre, “so a good course of action is simply to support them.” To boost both of your moods, he suggests doing things together that you both enjoy—and taking other friends along to further spread those good feelings, too.’

 

Amanda MacMillan / Health.com   Sep 22, 2017   TIME Health


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Study Shows Why It’s Massively Important to Have a Good Attitude

Positive thinking may reduce your risk of this deadly disease

Could a grin on your face be your ticker’s saving grace? 

In a new study at Penn State University, scientists looked at more than 1,000 people with coronary heart disease over a 5-year period. Patients who reported having higher levels of positive emotions like determination, excitement, and enthusiasm were more likely to exercise, sleep better, and avoid smoking.

Not surprisingly, those three measures can all reduce your risk of heart disease, according to previous research.

Although the people in this study already had heart problems—and their positive attitudes helped them maintain better health behaviors—other research pegs happiness as a proven preventative tool. A study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that positive well-being was associated with nearly a one-third reduction of coronary artery disease.

The scientists aren’t exactly sure why people with better attitudes are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, but they have a few theories.

Happier people may be more motivated to carry out and stick to health routines, adjust health-related goals, or cope with the setbacks of having ticker trouble, says study author Nancy Sin, Ph.D.

The most encouraging part of the findings is that the people who had great outlooks weren’t necessarily that way from the start. Patients who increased their positive emotions as the study went on were more likely to keep up healthy behaviors.

Stress and depression tend to hog all the headlines when it comes to factors that influence our health. So we tend to overlook the huge impact that positive thinking can have, says Sin.

But as the study shows, you can always turn your attitude around. “Start with small changes in your life,” says Sin.

BY JADA GREEN October 14, 2015


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Fun Fact Friday

  • The phrase, “Happy wife, happy life,” is scientifically proven; husbands who have happy wives are more satisfied with their lives.

  • Applying vodka on your face cleanses the skin, tightens pores and can prevent acne breakouts.

 

  • You can have four to seven dreams in one night.

  • Boredom is the single largest contributor to the use of drugs and alcohol among teens.

 

~ Happy Friday!~