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A lack of sleep leads to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.
Just ten minutes of mindfulness helps the mind and body recover from sleep deprivation, new research finds.
Failing to get 7-8 hours sleep per night is linked to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.
But mindfulness has a remarkable restorative effect.
Ten minutes of mindfulness during the day is enough to compensate for 44 minutes of lost sleep at night, the study of entrepreneurs found.
Here are some mindfulness exercises that are easy to fit into your day.
Dr Charles Murnieks, the study’s first author, said:
“You can’t replace sleep with mindfulness exercises, but they might help compensate and provide a degree of relief.
As little as 70 minutes a week, or 10 minutes a day, of mindfulness practice may have the same benefits as an extra 44 minutes of sleep a night.”
The study followed 105 entrepreneurs, 40% of whom were working 50 hours per week or more and sleeping less than six hours a night.
The results showed that entrepreneurs who engaged in more mindfulness were less exhausted.
A second study of a further 329 entrepreneurs also found that mindfulness could offset the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.
However, mindfulness only works in this context when people are low on sleep.
Some people are getting enough sleep, but still feel exhausted.
Dr Murnieks said:
“If you’re feeling stressed and not sleeping, you can compensate with mindfulness exercises to a point.
But when you’re not low on sleep, mindfulness doesn’t improve those feelings of exhaustion.”
Mindfulness helps to reduce stressors before they lead to exhaustion.
For entrepreneurs and others with long working hours, mindfulness can be beneficial.
Dr Murnieks said:
“There are times when you’re launching a new venture that you’re going to have to surge.
Mindfulness exercises may be one way to provide some relief during those tough stretches.”
The study was published in the Journal of Business Venturing (Murnieks et al., 2019).
January 6, 2021
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.
9 Things Sleep Doctors Would Never Do At Night Before Going To Bed
Experts reveal which bedtime habits to avoid if you want to feel rested in the morning.
“Even though nighttime might seem like the perfect time to catch up on the latest COVID-19 information or the presidential race, we should try to avoid things that can cause anxiety before bed. Unfortunately, nowadays the news is filled with things that can cause worry and other unwanted emotions that you definitely want to avoid if you are hoping to get a good night’s sleep. The news, in some ways, keeps people up late at night the same way that a horror movie can. Images and information regarding violence or fear stimulate your mind preventing you from having a smooth transition into sleep.” — Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant proportion of our population is working from home these days, and as such, your home has become your office. You want to avoid at all costs working from your bed, however, as you want to maintain the relationship with the brain that the bed is only for two things — sleep and sex.
As you do more and more mentally stimulating activities in bed, the brain slowly develops a psychological association of the bed being a place to stay awake rather than sleep. This, in turn, can trigger people to develop sleep-onset insomnia. Your house is already your office, so during these difficult times, use the bed as your sanctuary — a place to relax, escape work and sleep.” ― Ruchir P. Patel, medical director of the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Exercise in the morning or during the daytime can go a long way to helping improve insomnia symptoms at night, but exercise late in the day can be counterproductive. Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.” ― Stacey Gunn, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Try your hardest to avoid a heated conversation with your significant other before bed. As the saying goes, never go to bed angry, or bad feelings will harden into resentment. There is research to support the idea that negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep.
Plus, anger is a huge turn-off. If you do this repeatedly, it creates an unhealthy pattern, and destroys potential opportunities for sexual intimacy. Confrontations lead to a stress response, which is exactly opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. It’s important to create a peaceful environment for you and your partner to have a good night’s sleep. Instead of fighting, maybe snuggle up together and watch ‘Love Actually,’ one of my personal favorites.” — Dasgupta
“Avoid drinking any caffeinated drinks past 2 p.m. Caffeinated drinks —including coffee, soda, iced tea, pre-work out drinks or energy drinks — act as a stimulant. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors — and adenosine [plays a role in] sleep homeostasis.” — Anupama Ramalingam, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Some people end up self-medicating with a nightcap, because it does help them to fall asleep more easily at the beginning of the night. But I recommend against it because it causes the sleep architecture to be disrupted later on, resulting in poor quality sleep. If I do have a drink in the evening, I try to separate it from bedtime, and give the alcohol a chance to clear out of my system before going to sleep.” ― Gunn
“Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.”
7. They don’t use electronic devices (without a blue light filter).
“In sleep and circadian science, we use the term ‘zeitgeber’ — or ‘time giver’ — to describe environmental cues that help us entrain to a 24-hour cycle. Light is the most powerful zeitgeber that signals the brain to stay awake. Prolonged exposure to bright light around bedtime keeps us awake and reduces the amount of sleep we get. Exposure to light at night also suppresses the brain’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that is released in response to darkness and helps us to fall asleep.” ― Anita Shelgikar, clinical associate professor of neurology and director of the sleep medicine fellowship at the University of Michigan
“I was reminded during a fishing trip to the Outer Banks [in North Carolina] with my nephews of the importance of avoiding artificial light before bedtime. We were forced to use propane lanterns on the island each night as there was no electricity available. Several of the parents on the fishing trip remarked that the darkness had improved their sleep so much that they might pitch the idea of ‘Lantern Tuesday’ to their spouses: A night each week dedicated to reducing light exposure and improving sleep sounds like a great idea to me!
Exposure to bright light suppresses melatonin secretion. Plus, alteration of the circadian rhythm (or the daily rhythmic sleep-wake cycle) by nocturnal light exposure may contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic disease. What sort of practical steps can one take to avoid bright light? Dim the lights in the home except for a few lamps several hours before bed.” — William J. Healy, assistant professor of medicine and director of sleep quality improvement at Augusta University.
“Many of our patients will give themselves a 10-hour sleep window but realistically are only asleep for six to eight hours. Please do not spend more time in bed than you really need. All the extra time in bed awake results in your brain starting to develop an association that the bed is a place to be awake and also sleep. But this, in turn, can result in disruption of your sleep drive and thus result in poor sleep efficiency and sleep quality.” — Patel
These vitamins could reduce respiratory conditions and COVID-19 infections.
Vitamin A, D, and E could help people ward off respiratory illnesses and viral infections like COVID-19.
The effect of nutrition on improving the immune system due to the human body’s complexity is not wholly clear.
However, we know for sure that some nutrients play a key part in the reduction of different infections and diseases.
Past studies show that vitamin C is effective in treating or preventing pneumonia as well as supporting white blood cells to overcome viral infections such as flu and the common cold.
Data from an eight-year survey on 6,115 UK adult patients has now found that vitamin A, D and E intake were linked to a reduction in respiratory complaints, in particular viral infections.
However, this study didn’t find any effect from vitamin C supplements or food intake on respiratory diseases.
Vitamin A and vitamin E from supplements and food intake, vitamin D supplements (but not from the diet) showed significant reductions in respiratory conditions such as colds and lung diseases including asthma.
Food such as cheese, full-fat milk, liver, dark green leafy vegetables, and carrots are high in vitamin A while wheat germ oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, and olive oil are sources of vitamin E.
Dr Suzana Almoosawi and Dr Luigi Palla, the authors of this study, wrote:
“It is estimated that around a fifth of the general population in the UK have low vitamin D, and over 30% of older adults aged 65 years and above do not achieve the recommended nutrient intake.
Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that supplementation is critical to ensuring adequate vitamin D status is maintained and potentially indicate that intake of vitamin D from diet alone cannot help maintain adequate vitamin D status.”
Professor Sumantra Ray from NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, said:
“Nationally representative data continue to remind us that micronutrient deficiencies are far from a thing of the past, even in higher income nations like the UK, and this trend is mirrored by comparable global data sources from lesser resourced countries to those with advanced health systems.
Despite this, micronutrient deficiencies are often overlooked as a key contributor to the burden of malnutrition and poor health, presenting an additional layer of challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health (Almoosawi & Palla., 2020).
November 15, 2020 source: PsyBlog
A sufficient level of this vitamin could halve the risk of catching coronavirus and protect COVID-19 patients from the worst of the disease.
Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of COVID-19 infection and the severity of the disease, if it is caught, research finds.
Professor Michael Holick, study co-author, said:
“Because vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is so widespread in children and adults in the United States and worldwide, especially in the winter months, it is prudent for everyone to take a vitamin D supplement to reduce risk of being infected and having complications from COVID-19.”
A blood level of 30 nanogram per millilitre of vitamin D has been shown to protect patients with COVID-19 against complications and death, as well as reducing the risk of getting ill by a large amount.
According to a new study, COVID-19 patients with adequate levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are less likely to have severe clinical problems from the illness.
These outcomes include hypoxia — poor oxygen supply to the body — being unconscious, and death.
25-hydroxyvitamin D is produced in the liver and it is a major form of vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.
Also, patients with a sufficient amount of vitamin D have higher levels of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell which fights infection, and their blood shows a lower level of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory indicator.
Professor Holick said:
“This study provides direct evidence that vitamin D sufficiency can reduce the complications, including the cytokine storm (release of too many proteins into the blood too quickly) and ultimately death from COVID-19.”
The study examined 235 hospitalized coronavirus patients to see if serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels can change the severe clinical outcomes from the disease.
Vitamin D status, numbers of lymphocytes, and C-reactive protein were analysed from patient’s blood samples.
The patients were also checked for severity of the infection, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness and hypoxia.
The analysis showed that patients with a blood level of at least 30 ng/mL of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had a 52 percent higher chance of surviving the infection than those with lower levels of vitamin D.
Professor Holick, in a recent study, revealed that an adequate amount of vitamin D can lower the odds of becoming infected with COVID-19 by 54 percent.
Vitamin D sufficiency helps to overcome the coronavirus disease and other types of upper respiratory infections such as influenza.
Professor Holick pointed out:
“There is great concern that the combination of an influenza infection and a coronal viral infection could substantially increase hospitalizations and death due to complications from these viral infections.”
Vitamin D is a cheap but effective way to boost people’s immune system against the virus and can decrease health-related issues such as needing ventilatory support and immune system overactivity resulting in cytokine storm.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE (Maghbooli et al., 2020).
About the author
is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
October 7, 2020
“The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May,
especially for those living north of Atlanta,” Althea Zanecosky, RD
15 Foods That Are High in Vitamin D
Eating plenty of vitamin D foods strengthens your bones, regulates your immune system, and more—but chances are, you’re not getting enough.
Vitamin D may be known as the sunshine vitamin, but too few of us think to look for it in the fridge—and that’s a big mistake. “The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May, especially for those living north of Atlanta,” says Althea Zanecosky, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That’s probably why nearly half of people tested at winter’s end had a vitamin D deficiency, according to a University of Maine study. Compounding the problem is our vigilant use of sunscreen; SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, the type our bodies use to make D. Skin also has a harder time producing vitamin D with age.
Back up: What is vitamin D, and why is it so important?
Your body creates vitamin D on its own after being exposed to sunlight. It helps the body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of bones. If you’re low on D, then you’re at increased risk for bone diseases like osteoporosis.
Evidence continues to mount that vitamin D also helps to regulate the immune system, lower blood pressure, protect against depression, and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several kinds of cancer. A 2014 study from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine also found that people with low vitamin D levels were twice as likely to die prematurely.
So, are you getting enough vitamin D?
Probably not. The Institute of Medicine has set the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D at 600 international units (IU) for everyone under the age of 70. (It’s 800 IU for adults 70+.) But many experts believe that’s too low. “There is talk that the RDA may be increased,” says Zanecosky. “Many physicians are now advising 2,000 milligrams daily for those with low blood levels.”
The Top Vitamin D Foods
In a recent nutrient survey, many respondents were rightfully concerned they weren’t getting enough D, with 22% actively looking for it in foods. But just 9% knew that salmon is a good natural source of the vitamin, and only 5% recognized fortified tofu as one, too. Here are some other ways to get more foods with vitamin D in your diet:
Wild-caught fish (425 IU in 3 oz salmon, 547 IU
in 3 oz mackerel)
Beef or calf liver (42 IU in 3 oz)
Egg yolks (41 IU per egg)
Canned fish (154 IU in 3 oz tuna, 270 IU in 3.5 oz sardines)
Shiitake mushrooms (40 IU in 1 cup)
Milk: whole, nonfat or reduced fat (100 IU in 8 oz)
Yogurt (80–100 IUs in 6 oz)
Almond milk (100 IU in 8 oz)
Pudding made with milk (49-60 IUs in ½ cup)
Orange juice (137 IU in 1 cup)
Breakfast cereals (50–100 IUs in 0.75–1 cup)
Fortified tofu (80 IU in 3 oz)
Oatmeal (150 IU in 1 packet)
Cheese (40 IU in 1 slice)
Eggnog (123 IU in 8 oz)
By Aviva Patz Jun 10, 2018
“These are quite pricey devices, and remember, they are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, the associate program director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.
“The results would need to be validated by the appropriate FDA-approved devices, and because the study is likely on younger people who are more economically well off, does that really apply to older folks we worry about with poor sleep?” said Dasgupta, who was not involved in the study.
“While we cannot determine the direction of association from our study result, these findings provide further support to the notion that sleep patterns are associated with weight management and overall health,” the authors wrote.
“The findings also support the potential value of including both sleep duration and individual sleep patterns when studying sleep-related health outcomes.”
LINK BETWEEN SLEEP AND EATING
“The ‘l’ in leptin stands for lose: It suppresses appetite and therefore contributes to weight loss,” he said. “The ‘g’ in ghrelin stands for gain: This fast-acting hormone increases hunger and leads to weight gain,” Dasgupta said.
“When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not like, ‘Oh, you know what, I want some carrots,'” said behavioural neuroscientist Erin Hanlon, who studies the connection between brain systems and behavior at the University of Chicago, in a prior CNN interview.
“You’re craving sweets and salty and starchy things,” she added. “You want those chips, you want a cookie, you want some candy, you know?”
GET BETTER SLEEP
- During the day, try to get good exposure to natural light, as that will help regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Avoid stimulants (coffee, tea) after 3 p.m. and fatty foods before bedtime.
- Establish a bedtime routine you can follow each night. Taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or doing light stretches are all good options.
- Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and the room is cool: Between 60 and 67 degrees is best. Don’t watch TV or work in your bedroom; you want your brain to think of the room as only for sleep.
- Eliminate all lights – even the blue light of cellphones or laptops can be disruptive. Dull sounds, too. Earplugs or white noise machines can be very helpful, but you can create your own with a humidifier or fan.
10 Ways Sleep Can Change Your Life
“During a pandemic such as Covid-19, there’s a potential to induce or exacerbate many sleep issues,” Dr. Matthew Schmitt, a doctor of sleep medicine at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia, told CNN.
“A lack of quality sleep not only affects how we feel during the daytime, but can also impair our immune system function, which is vital in protecting us from common viral illnesses.”
“All of these things are really interconnected in terms of their function. All of them are connected to the body clock,” Kryger said. “The body is like an orchestra where there’s an orchestra leader that’s sort of the main timer, but everybody else is playing it together and they’re optimizing what they are doing.”
here are 10 benefits you could gain from the regimen.
“Imagine you’re a car or something that’s running for 16 hours during the day,” Kryger said. “You’re going to have to do stuff to get back to normal. You just can’t keep on running.”
During sleep is when we produce most of our growth hormone that ultimately results in bone growth. Our tissues rest, relaxing our muscles and reducing inflammation. And each cell and organ have their own clock that “plays a really important role in maximizing or optimizing how our body works,” Kryger added.
When people get too much or too little sleep, “there appears to be an increased risk of deaths … and other diseases raising their ugly heads,” Kryger said, such as heart problems and diabetes. The healing period during sleep also factors in, as it allows cells that would cause disease to repair themselves.
“As you sleep, memories are reactivated, connections between brain cells are strengthened, and information is transferred from short- to long-term,” said a National Sleep Foundation article on the subject. “Without enough quality sleep, we become forgetful.”
“As we’re thinking about vaccination that’s being developed” for Covid-19, that kind of research is going to be important.
“Getting the right amount of sleep is really important in possibly preventing a mental illness or the appearance of a mental illness,” he added. And in addition to the benefits for mood and stress regulation, sleeping enough “may make the treatment of the mental illnesses more efficacious if the person sleeps enough.”
People React Better to Both Negative and Positive Events
With More Sleep
“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” says Nancy Sin, assistant professor in UBC’s department of psychology. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”
“The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” says Sin. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.”
“We were also interested in whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults,” says Sin. “For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep – compared to one’s usual sleep duration – led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day.”
Positive psychology often is passed off as pop psychology or New Age-y by those who haven’t actually looked into it.
The actual theory behind positive psychology was defined in 1998 by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  and looks at all aspects of a person’s psychology. It does not discount traditional psychology, nor supersede it. Rather than viewing psychology purely as a treatment for the malign, however, it looks at the positive. Positive psychology is a recognized form of therapy and is offered by some counselors and psychologists.
Psychology has always been interested in where people’s lives have gone wrong, and what has resulted because of it . Illnesses such as depression are well-documented and patterns of depressive behavior well-known. However, until recently, what makes people happy and how they achieve inner happiness and well-being has been a mystery.
Practitioners of positive psychology study people whose lives are positive and try to learn from them, in order to help others achieve this state of happiness . It is a scientific study and not remotely hippie-ish, despite its connotations.
Positive thinking is one aspect of positive psychology. Surrounding yourself with a great lifestyle and material goods may seem to lead to happiness, but how you really feel is governed by what goes on inside your head. When you go out of your way to think positively, you actually purge yourself of negative self-talk. 
Negative self-talk is one of the biggest barriers to positive thinking. People become so accustomed to negative thinking that their conscious mind will pull them down, even when they have done nothing wrong. These people become insecure, overly apologetic and indecisive. Worse still, they open the door to numerous stress-related problems.
Negative thinkers have four common mindsets:
Many negative thinkers will pull the negatives out of a situation and focus on them. Sometimes these people will see only the negative in a situation, to the point where they deny any positive.
Some people make every tragedy about themselves. They will personalize every negative thing and assume that bad things happen because they are unlucky, or as a result of something they did or didn’t do. They will often construct negative situations with perfect logic, providing plausible reasons why negative things are either their fault or set out to hurt them.
This involves anticipating the worst. Some people even precipitate it. They can turn a slightly awkward interaction into an overreaction, making the situation worse. If something negative does happen, they will use it to validate their negative assumptions.
This type of negative thinker sees things as black or white. Either a situation is perfect or it is a catastrophe. This type of negative thinking can affect every area of a person’s life. Its effects can be both psychological and physical. By practicing positive thinking, you can actually stave off medical conditions and reap the benefits of having a positive outlook on life.
Depression is complicated illness with physical and mental health elements. It would be flippant to suggest that someone with a positive outlook will not encounter depressive feelings.
However, positive psychology can be beneficial in treating depression. It can equip sufferers with the tools to stop downward spirals when they begin and help them to see the positive aspects to their lives. It can also help to stop the negative thinking habits that are common in depression. 
Scientific studies also show that there is a direct link between stress and the immune system. When a person is experiencing a period of stress and negativity, his or her body is less able to mount an inflammatory response to attacks from bacteria and viruses. This results in an increase in infections such as the common cold and cold sores.  Having a positive outlook on life also equips people better for dealing with serious illness. Tackling diseases such as cancer with optimism and self-belief has shown to have a beneficial effect on recovery and ability to tolerate treatment.
Among the other health benefits listed above, positive thinkers have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. They tend to have lower blood pressure than those who do not engage in positive thinking. The health benefits extend to the emotional side, too. optimists will have better physical and psychological well-being, and better skills for coping with stress and hardship.
It is important to remember that simply having a positive mindset won’t actually stop bad things from happening. But it does give you the tools to better deal with bad situations. Sometimes your coping skills come down to nothing more than refusing to give in to your negative side and your fears. For some people, positive thinking comes quite naturally. For others, seeking professional help is necessary to get them on the right track.
 Miller, G. E. & Cohen, S. (2005). Infectious disease and psychoneuroimmununology. In K. Vedhara & M. Irwin (Eds.). Human psychoneuroimmunology. New York: Oxford University Press.
20 Things to Avoid if You Want to Be Happier
Part of prioritizing means saying “no” to certain people and things.
In this article, we’re going to focus our attention on 20 things that we would do well to say “no.” You’ll see many familiar things on here (T.V., anyone?) However, you may be a bit more surprised at some of the other things that can make you happier.
DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND SAY ‘NO’ TO THESE 20 THINGS TO BECOME HAPPIER:
1 – ALCOHOL/DRUGS
For those made to suffer through the atrocious circa 90s “Just Say No” commercials, we apologize.
Drugs are atrociously bad for mental and physical health. Drugs ruin lives, families, and institutions. Per statistics published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug abuse and addiction cost American society alone over $700 billion per year.
It’s common for substance abuse to abuse both alcohol and drugs. There also exist correlations between substance abuse and mental health problems.
The message here is simple: stay away from drugs and limit alcohol intake.
2 – MORE WORK
Some people love what they do, and that’s a beautiful place to be. For the rest of us, however, work should be viewed as a necessity to live. You’d think that we live forever considering just how much time some people spend at the office.
Per a report by the American Institute of Stress (AIS), “job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults,” adding, “[job stress] has escalated progressively over the past few decades.” (Emphasis added)
3 – FAST FOOD
Unless you’re super careful, and the place that you eat offers healthy options, fast food can show up on your waistline quick. Statistics show that a fast food meal contributes a disproportionately high percentage of daily caloric intake.
Over 50 million North Americans eat fast food every day or about 15 percent of the population.
4 – PROCRASTINATION
It may bring some comfort to know that the cause of procrastination is solely psychological – i.e., it has little to do with your willpower. Highly anxious individuals seem to have more difficulty with the procrastination bug than others.
So what to do? Just get started. Don’t think about how much work needs to be done. Emotional pain and discomfort associated with procrastination drop precipitously after an action is taken.
5 – DIGITAL DISTRACTIONS
The era we’re now living in is the most distracted in human history. One massive reason for this is the sheer ubiquity of mobile devices.
The problem is that these distractions are both alluring and addicting. Things like “distracted driving” have become a real thing. Some research shows that our attention span is shrinking as the digital age evolves.
6 – MAKING EXCUSES
Excuses do nothing but disempower you and those around you. While the adage “You’re stronger than you think” may seem overly cliché, it’s nonetheless true.
The cool thing is that once you stop making excuses, you realize how much happier you feel. It feels as if you’re retaking control of your life, which you are.
7 – WATCHING T.V.
The amount of television that people watch is insane.
Per a Nielsen report, the average American spends about 35.5 hours watching the tube. The problem with this isn’t so much the activity in itself – but the opportunity cost.
That is, those hours you could use say exercising, building a business plan, spending time with the family, and other more meaningful things.
8 – PERFECTIONISM
Speaking of procrastination, one of the more common reasons that people put things off is fear – and this includes fear born of perfectionism. For the uninitiated, perfectionism is the unhealthy striving for, well, perfection.
Not only is perfectionism unrealistic, but it’s also unhealthy. Perfectionistic tendencies are connected to multiple clinical issues, including anxiety and depression, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
9 – SUGAR
Okay, so it may be very difficult – perhaps even impossible – to completely abstain from sugar. However, one would be well-advised to curb any intake. Per an article published by Harvard University’s health publication, “The effects of added sugar intake – higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease – are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.”
10 – OVERSPENDING
Psychologists and other behavioral experts have thoroughly debunked the idea that money can buy happiness. So why do we keep spending too much? It’s all psychological. To overcome the habit requires diligence, patience, and discipline.
The cool thing is that once the seed habit of saving is planted, people find that they enjoy it.
11 – MIND-WANDERING OR RUMINATION
Rehashing what “could’ve/would’ve/should’ve been” is a complete waste of time. Unfortunately, the human brain is uniquely wired for pointless thinking. According to a widely-cited study by Harvard researchers Gilbert and Killingsworth, our minds drift about in aimless thinking about half of our waking hours.
Unsurprisingly, this constant turning over of the mind is not conducive to becoming happier. The conclusions reached by Gilbert and Killingsworth: “(I) people are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as they are thinking about what is…(ii) doing so typically makes them unhappy.”
12 – COMPARING YOURSELF
We have an unhealthy obsession with comparing ourselves with others. Such is particularly true in consumer-driven societies like the United States, where possessions and status are so coveted.
But comparing yourself to people does nothing but make us feel worse. It’s not easy to stop such an ingrained response, but we can take a step in the right direction by intentionally redirecting our focus when such thoughts arise.
13 – NOT FINISHING THINGS
We do enough things. So, this one’s not that bad, except that leaving things undone creates unnecessary mental tension and, studies show, drains our cognitive reserves.
The answer lies in a two-step process: (1) determining which endeavors are indeed worth committing to, and (2) avoiding everything else.
14 – NO OR TOO MUCH ALONE TIME
Neither too much nor too little seclusion is healthy. While we introverts may treasure our solo status, it doesn’t change the biological evolution of our brains.
On the flip side, while extroverts may despise being by themselves, such time is crucial for reflection and rejuvenation.
15 – THE MAINSTREAM NEWS
Okay, so perhaps doing away all news is unpractical – perhaps even unadvisable. But you should know that the unfortunate adage that “Bad news sells” is (a) true, and (b) media companies leverage this fact. This helps to explain why most of the news we read elicits feelings of fear and sadness.
So, don’t entirely ignore the news (though you could do worse), but watch how much attention you’re paying to it.
16 – NEGATIVITY
First off, we’re not telling you to ignore every instance of negativity, though limiting it is most certainly beneficial to your mental wellbeing. Everyone feels a bit negative from time to time.
We’re talking about limiting your exposure to consistently negative people. Sure, there are those rays of sunshine who can handle the negativity, though they’re few and far between. The rest of us need to watch how much time we’re spending amidst these folks to become happier.
17 – SHALLOW WORK
The term “shallow work” was coined by MIT-trained computer scientist and professor, Cal Newport. Instead of defining shallow work, let us note its opposite – what Newport calls (naturally) “Deep Work.”
Per Newport, Deep Work describes “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.”
Why engage in deep work? Because it “[creates] new value, [improves] your skill,” and, perhaps most importantly, “are hard to replicate.” Read: you’ll make more money and live happier.
18 – INCONSISTENCY
Being inconsistent in your efforts is detrimental to the achievement of the life you desire. It does little good to be filled with motivation and drive one day and then drift back into the same ole’ bad habits the next.
Inconsistency is often the byproduct of poor planning. As such, it is crucial to have a plan going into the day.
19 – SOCIAL MEDIA
Let’s bring Cal Newport back into the story. Besides being a big fan of sustained attention, Newport is a digital minimalist. In other words, he’s Facebook’s and Twitter’s worst nightmare. In one talk, he rails against the former, calling the social media platform an “entertainment product” – and, essentially, a colossal waste of time.
The fact that the average person spends 2.5 hours per day on social media does little to counter Newport’s argument.
20 – TAKING THINGS TOO SERIOUSLY
Here’s an exciting experiment: go anywhere you want, sit down with a beverage of your choice, and observe people for one hour. Watch closely. (Not too closely, lest an officer of the law intervenes.)
All joking aside: what do you see? Are people rushing around? Scrunched-up faces and tight shoulders? A seeming lack of purpose or direction?
This is how most people live their lives. Some people never stop living this way from the time they’re told to “grow up.”
Cliché time! Life is too short to take things so darn seriously. Let’s loosen up and be happier!
Your workout has so many benefits for your mental health, longevity, immune system and more.
Many people who loathe exercise arguably feel that way because of how the activity has been marketed to them. For too long, exercise and weight loss have been indivisibly bound, leading many to fall into the comparison trap, experience shame or engage in negative self-talk.
But moving your body grants so much more than a fit figure or relief from the guilt of indulging in a “cheat meal.” Movement is self-improvement beyond the physical form.
None of this is to say I don’t fall victim to feeling absolute dread before a workout. Sometimes the process of lacing up my sneakers and clipping on my nerdy little running belt is beyond torturous, the beasts in my head questioning why I bother.
Sometimes my demons do get the best of me. But on the days I do choose exercise, I just about always feel better than when I started. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve begrudgingly worked out and felt worse after the fact (the count is one, and it was the time I was hit by a bike while on a run).
From easing symptoms of depression (in my case, clearing some of the dark clouds that appear on what was supposed to be a perfectly sunny day), to relieving stress to protecting the body from injury, so much good is reaped from exercise. I think the marketing department is long overdue for a new strategy, one that links physical activity with the bounty of goodness it can provide. Here are just some of those things to consider.
Working out can lower your stress levels
Exercise yields many mental health benefits, and stress reduction is certainly among them. Whether it’s a boxing session to relieve some pent-up anger or a yoga sequence to help you focus on the present, that physical activity will increase the production of neurohormones like norepinephrine, a chemical that moderates the brain’s stress response.
And it can be the antidote for anxiety
There’s a lot happening in the body when you choose to move. Some of that takes place in the brain, where chemicals are produced to fight the feelings that bring you down. Aerobic exercise in particular (any type of cardio that gets your blood flowing) has been shown to benefit mood disorders and generally improve anxiety.
Working out = happy feelings
Runner’s high, endorphins, the feels — whatever you want to call it, exercise is sure to bring it. Being active causes the brain to release feel-good chemicals that boost your mood; it’s the reason why you almost always feel better post-workout than when you started.
And it can improve self-confidence
Even if you don’t lose a single pound at the gym, exercise can make you feel better about yourself. Research shows that getting physical can boost feelings of self-esteem and improve self-image.
It may even enhance your sex life
Improved self-confidence can work wonders for your romantic world. But beyond that, research has found that men who maintain a regular exercise routine have improved erectile and sexual function.
Exercise offers a new way to explore
Seeing a city by bike or by sneaker is a completely different experience than traditional modes of travel. Running or biking in a new place lets you cover more ground while still letting you stop to smell the roses, so to speak. Even if it’s your own city, you’ll start to learn to navigate the roads more comfortably and notice things you might’ve missed by car. The only reason I know how to get around some of the most dizzying streets of New York City is because I’ve run them. Better yet, combining exercise with nature (even if that nature is a concrete jungle) amplifies exercise’s self esteem-boosting benefits.
Exercise can help you sleep better
A good night’s sleep makes everything better, and exercising can help you nab one. People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during their waking hours if they exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, according to research associated with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
It can boost your productivity
Exercise is sort of like a gateway drug to getting stuff done: Once you muster up the energy and will for a workout, other tasks become more tolerable, too. Research shows that people who work exercise into their schedules are more productive and energized than their less active counterparts.
And your creativity
Even if it’s just a mid-day walk or skip, a bit of physical activity can enhance your creativity. If you’re stuck on a project or problem, consider a sweat session not a way to procrastinate, but your ticket through it.
Exercise can make you stronger and reduce your risk for injury
This one becomes increasingly important with age, and you know this to be true if you’ve ever pulled a back muscle doing the most mundane activity. It’s frustrating and sometimes debilitating, and the chances of it happening again can be greatly reduced with a well-rounded workout routine — especially one that incorporates strength-training. Exercise is also associated with increased longevity and lower risks for age-related diseases. Your joints and muscles benefit from an active lifestyle.
It can also keep your brain bright
If you haven’t yet noticed, the benefits of exercise are not just physical. Research shows that it can significantly benefit your cognitive function and even help improve your memory by increasing the production of cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning.
And benefit your immune system
A sustained exercise habit helps slow down the changes that happen to the immune system over time, keeping you healthier for longer. This, in turn, reduces your risk for infection and keeps you from getting sick.
With exercise comes community
Even if your gym is closed for the foreseeable future, there’s much to be shared in the joys (and challenges) of working out. A new sport or walking trail expands your horizons and offers you something to share with others. Even online, thousands of communities will root for your goals and get into the nitty-gritty of gear and ice baths, if that’s something you’re after. Whenever I’m out for a run, I like to remember that I have something in common with every fellow runner I spot, no matter our paces.
This story is part of Don’t Sweat It, a HuffPost Life series on improving your relationship with fitness. We’re giving you a guide on the latest thinking on exercise and why we’ve been conditioned to hate it in the past. Mental health and body-positive fitness experts will offer guidance and show you how to find a routine that works for you.
17 Common Exercise Mistakes People Make
When Working Out At Home
during the coronavirus lockdown.
The coronavirus lockdown has many people focusing on moving their bodies. Faced with the prospect of not being able to go to a gym or a class, many have turned to YouTube and Instagram in search of workouts.
While it’s good to exercise, of course, you also need to be careful of how it’s done. The margin of error for bad form and mistakes may increase exponentially at home.
The good news is that fixing these issues is as easy as making them in the first place. The first step is recognizing what you’re doing wrong, so that you can address it. Here are a handful of common mistakes people make:
1. Trusting any person who posts a workout on Instagram
Not all trainers are created equal, especially if you’re not used to doing exercise and don’t keep an eye on your form.
“One of the most common mistakes today is following influencers who don’t have any training, but who do have lots of marketing behind them,” explains Beatriz Crespo, a specialist with doctoral degrees in both medicine and sports performance.
“It’s like going to a professional who says they can cure you. They’re not a doctor but they do have a marketing package that positions them as a health guru,” she continued. ”You believe them and follow everything they recommend without questioning it and without thinking about it. You follow them because it’s easy, they’ve got bright colors and play the hottest tunes.”
2. Wearing yourself out to get better and faster results
According to Crespo, “lots of people really believe that if you don’t get tired, if you’re not stiff the next day, or if you don’t train at a high intensity and with 100% motivation every day, then you’re not making progress or doing anything to make up for being stuck inside, and that will be good for losing weight.”
In her opinion, “this is the greatest myth and lie of the sports industry,” insisting that ”’train hard’ and ’no pain, no gain’ are lies.”
3. Thinking that sweating means you’ll lose weight
Nothing could be further from the truth. You sweat when you get dehydrated, and that’s why you shouldn’t exercise wearing lots of clothing or in a very warm setting.
“When you get dehydrated, the same thing happens as when you overtrain. It’s counterproductive, and it’s also dangerous for your health,” Santiago Marchante, a member of the Spanish Federation of Personal Trainers and Fitness, previously told HuffPost Spain.
4. Not staying properly hydrated
Water must be by your side throughout the entire routine, said trainer Verónica Costa. Water is more than enough to keep you hydrated; you don’t need sugary sports drinks.
“Unless the exercise is aerobic and lasts a long time (more than 70-75 minutes), it makes no sense to drink those drinks. Many are also hypertonic, meaning that they’re absorbed more slowly than water, and have a high sugar content, so they can cause gastrointestinal discomfort,” Pedro Ruiz, personal trainer and coordinator of tupersonaltrainer.com, previously told HuffPost Spain.
5. Repeating the same exercise over and over again
Our body isn’t going to be better just by endlessly repeating the same workout. In fact, it can be counterproductive.
“Variety in stimuli is important to avoid strains,” Crespo said. “We spend a lot of time seated and we need sessions that make up for our sedentary daily routine by providing different stimuli based on four fundamental pillars: strength training, resistance, flexibility and speed.”
Francisco García-Muro, coordinator of physical therapy in physical activity and sports section of the Professional Association of Physical Therapists of Madrid, notes an additional problem: “Working very specific muscles can create an imbalance with respect to the rest of the body, and that ends up manifesting as a problematic condition.”
6. Thinking you’re doing it better because you’re shaking
Don’t push yourself too hard at first or you’ll risk getting an injury.
“It’s not healthy for your muscles to shake during a plank exercise and for you to be encouraged to hold on,” Crespo said.
“Always doing everything really fast or getting really tired and finishing with your legs like Jell-O isn’t healthy either,” she continued.
7. Working above or below your abilities
You need to measure your strength to know where both your upper and lower limits are. If you want the exercise to be effective, physical therapist Pablo Olabe recommends getting a heart rate monitor. Then figure our your target heart rate for your age and health status and strive to work in that range.
8. Pushing past your limits to do as many reps as the trainer
There’s no reason for you to do the same number of reps as the online trainer who’s guiding you. Listen to your own body.
“The professional has to give you some guidelines so you can learn to monitor yourself on your own,” Crespo said. “In that sense, you need to measure the perception of fatigue that you get from the exercise or sequence of exercises suggested. From there, as a trainer, I can tell you a maximum of 20 reps and tell you the kinds of feelings I want you to get.”
It’s advisable to stop doing the exercise when you start to feel worn out, but you still have strength to keep going: “On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is not tired at all and 10 is really tired, that would mean being around 6 or 7. Stop when you get there, whether it’s 6 reps, 8 reps, or the maximum of 20,” Crespo said.
9. Not paying attention to whether you have the right form
“No one is going to correct your form like they do in guided classes at the gym, so you have to be the one who takes to the time to fix it,” says Costa. “You can’t rely on what you see on the computer screen, “so I recommend doing the exercise in front of a mirror wherever possible.” Don’t worry if this means you miss a rep or two, because what it really means is that you’re preventing a possible injury.
10. Not resting or listening to your body
“Rest is part of training and it’s really necessary so your body can regenerate tissues and improve bone quality after exercising,” Crespo said.
According to Olabe, it’s important to know how to listen to your body when you exercise, as well as when it should rest.
“If we’re not able to listen to it and then the next day we don’t stop or we take it up a notch, the only thing we’ll end up doing is get injured,” he pointed out. He recommends three ways to exercise based on your baseline condition.
No regular activity: one light day of activity, one day of rest, one day of activity, one of rest. Repeat.
In good condition: two days of activity, one of rest, two days of activity. Repeat.
Regularly exercise: three or four days of activity, one of rest, three or four days of activity, one of rest. Repeat.
11. Starting without warming up and doing the exercises cold
The first thing to do before starting any round of exercise is to warm up, said Costa, who recommends spending 10 minutes on your warm-up.
“It’s like getting everything ready to go,” García-Muro added. “The warm-up reduces the risk of injuries, and it’s also how you can get the most out of the work you do.”
Even if you’ll only be working out for half an hour, you still need to warm up, either with a specific routine or by doing the first round more lightly.
12. Overvaluing stretching
“Stretching is healthy, but it’s not a cure-all,” Crespo said.
“Our tissues are made to move. If you don’t move, you’re not going to make up for the firmness they lose with the lack of movement,” she continued.
That’s when your muscles, ligaments, and tendons become more flexible: “The tissues rub more freely against one another and you automatically feel fewer contractions or feelings of tension in different parts of the body, such as your neck, lumbar region, hips, shoulders, etc,” she said.
That’s why, to be flexible, first we need to move and then we need to stretch.
13. Undervaluing stretching
It’s not a cure-all, as mentioned, but it is necessary. In fact, Olabe recommends dedicating one session per week just to stretching.
“It’s a mistake to skip the stretching after a session, and it’s also a mistake not to dedicate entire sessions to doing a good set of stretches, myofascial release, and other techniques that are super healthy for the body,” added Crespo.
14. Giving up because an exercise becomes too much for you
You should stop the exercise if it becomes painful, but you can and should continue with the next one.
“Stop doing that exercise and move on to the next one because you might hurt yourself. It doesn’t matter if you skip one,” Crespo said. “If you can’t manage now, you will get there. The important thing is not to get discouraged or give up.”
15. Turning on the TV or keeping an eye on your phone
When you do exercise, the best thing to do is to leave your phone or any other distraction like the TV or a book switched off or out of reach.
“I believe that if you’re concentrating on one thing, you can’t be concentrating on another. It will be much less effective,” explained Olalla Eiriz, a trainer from VIP Training.
16. Doing an unsupervised class if you’re dealing with an injury
YouTube or Instagram classes are good, but be cautious if you have any problems or injuries.
“Anyone with an underlying problem, back pain, injuries, or who is pregnant should sign up for specific classes and do guided training,” Costa said.
17. Focusing on the scale
Forget about the scale and weighing yourself. It’s not good for anything. And even less so if you’re not used to working out regularly, because you may end up gaining weight. Muscle weighs more than fat, so Crespo emphasized that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the numbers. Just enjoy the movement and forget about the rest.
Lack of sleep, loneliness and stress are the main psychological factors that make people more vulnerable to infection, research finds.
However, loneliness can be combated by speaking to others using apps like FaceTime, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Google Duo.
Stress can be reduced with simple psychological exercises and sleep can be improved by following sleep hygiene guidelines.
Dr Christopher Fagundes, an expert on how mental health affects the immune system, said:
“We’ve found that stress, loneliness and lack of sleep are three factors that can seriously compromise aspects of the immune system that make people more susceptible to viruses if exposed.
Also, stress, loneliness and disrupted sleep promote other aspects of the immune system responsible for the production of proinflammatory cytokines to over-respond.
Elevated proinflammatory cytokine production can generate sustained upper respiratory infection symptoms.”
Studies have repeatedly shown that loneliness tends to make people more susceptible to infection.
People who spend less time around others are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus, research finds.
Staying connected with others and experiencing positive emotions, though, can boost the immune system.
Dr Fagundes recommends video calls:
“There is some evidence that it may be better to video conference versus having a regular phone call to reduce feelings of isolation.
There’s something about chatting with people and having them visually ‘with’ you that seems to be more of a buffer against loneliness.”
Sleep deprivation makes people more likely to get sick, said Dr Fagundes:
“The overwhelming consensus in the field is that people who do not consistently get a good night’s sleep—7-9 hours for adults, with variation on what is optimal—makes a person more likely to get sick.”
One of the best methods for improving sleep is called stimulus control therapy.
In general, though, having a regular sleep schedule, bedtime routine and prioritising sleep, all help people sleep better, scientists have found.
Stress is the third factor that can affect the performance of the immune system, said Dr Fagundes:
“It’s important also to note that when we talk about stress, we mean chronic stress taking place over several weeks, not a single stressful incident or a few days of stress.An isolated stressful incident does not seem to make a person more susceptible to a cold or the flu.”
Daily routines are a wonderful defence against stress, said Dr Fagundes:
“This will regulate your sleep and allow you to focus on immediate goals and plans.In turn, you will overthink things less and feel more accomplished.”
People who are particularly susceptible to worry may like to try this exercise, said Dr Fagundes:
“People often worry and overthink things because their brain is telling them there is something to solve.
However, it can be counterproductive after a while.
A good technique is to set aside 15 minutes a day where you allow yourself to worry, preferably with a pen and paper.
After that, you aren’t allowed to think about the issue for the rest of the day.”
A further step is to address cognitive distortions, said Dr Fagundes:
“People often convince themselves that a situation is much worse than it is by telling themselves things that are not true.
We call these cognitive distortions.
For example, it is common to catastrophize a situation by convincing themselves that the worst-case scenario is the most likely scenario.
When people learn to identify and then refute these thoughts, they often feel much better.”
He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.
source: PsyBlog March 28, 2020
This gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance, and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.
Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.
In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, “white crane spreads its wings” — or martial arts moves, such as “box both ears.” As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in some kinds of meditation — on your bodily sensations. Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.
Tai chi movement
A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age. An adjunct therapy is one that’s used together with primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, more generally, to improve a patient’s functioning and quality of life.
You don’t need to subscribe to or learn much about tai chi’s roots in Chinese philosophy to enjoy its health benefits, but these concepts can help make sense of its approach:
- Qi — an energy force thought to flow through the body; tai chi is said to unblock and encourage the proper flow of qi.
- Yin and yang — opposing elements thought to make up the universe that need to be kept in harmony. Tai chi is said to promote this balance.
Tai chi in motion
A tai chi class might include these parts:
Warm-up. Easy motions, such as shoulder circles, turning the head from side to side, or rocking back and forth, help you to loosen your muscles and joints and focus on your breath and body.
Instruction and practice of tai chi forms. Short forms — forms are sets of movements — may include a dozen or fewer movements; long forms may include hundreds. Different styles require smaller or larger movements. A short form with smaller, slower movements is usually recommended at the beginning, especially if you’re older or not in good condition.
Qigong (or chi kung). Translated as “breath work” or “energy work,” this consists of a few minutes of gentle breathing sometimes combined with movement. The idea is to help relax the mind and mobilize the body’s energy. Qigong may be practiced standing, sitting, or lying down.
The benefits of tai chi are generally greatest if you begin before you develop a chronic illness or functional limitations. Tai chi is very safe, and no fancy equipment is needed, so it’s easy to get started. Here’s some advice for doing so:
Don’t be intimidated by the language. Names like Yang, Wu, and Cheng are given to various branches of tai chi, in honor of people who devised the sets of movements called forms. Certain programs emphasize the martial arts aspect of tai chi rather than its potential for healing and stress reduction. In some forms, you learn long sequences of movements, while others involve shorter series and more focus on breathing and meditation. The name is less important than finding an approach that matches your interests and needs.
Check with your doctor. If you have a limiting musculoskeletal problem or medical condition — or if you take medications that can make you dizzy or lightheaded — check with your doctor before starting tai chi. Given its excellent safety record, chances are that you’ll be encouraged to try it.
Consider observing and taking a class. Taking a class may be the best way to learn tai chi. Seeing a teacher in action, getting feedback, and experiencing the camaraderie of a group are all pluses. Most teachers will let you observe the class first to see if you feel comfortable with the approach and atmosphere. Instruction can be individualized. Ask about classes at your local Y, senior center, or community education center.
If you’d rather learn at home, you can buy or rent videos geared to your interests and fitness needs (see “Selected resources”). Although there are some excellent tai chi books, it can be difficult to appreciate the flow of movements from still photos or illustrations.
Talk to the instructor. There’s no standard training or licensing for tai chi instructors, so you’ll need to rely on recommendations from friends or clinicians and, of course, your own judgment. Look for an experienced teacher who will accommodate individual health concerns or levels of coordination and fitness.
Dress comfortably. Choose loose-fitting clothes that don’t restrict your range of motion. You can practice barefoot or in lightweight, comfortable, and flexible shoes. Tai chi shoes are available, but ones you find in your closet will probably work fine. You’ll need shoes that won’t slip and can provide enough support to help you balance, but have soles thin enough to allow you to feel the ground. Running shoes, designed to propel you forward, are usually unsuitable.
Gauge your progress. Most beginning programs and tai chi interventions tested in medical research last at least 12 weeks, with instruction once or twice a week and practice at home. By the end of that time, you should know whether you enjoy tai chi, and you may already notice positive physical and psychological changes.
No pain, big gains
Although tai chi is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Here’s some of the evidence:
Muscle strength. Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.
Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body. Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.
Flexibility. Tai chi can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.
Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear.
Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate than tai chi can offer, you may need something more aerobic as well.
11 Ways Tai Chi Can Benefit Your Health
What is tai chi?
Tai chi is a form of exercise that began as a Chinese tradition. It’s based in martial arts, and involves slow movements and deep breaths. Tai chi has many physical and emotional benefits. Some of the benefits of tai chi include decreased anxiety and depression and improvements in cognition. It may also help you manage symptoms of some chronic diseases, such as fibromyalgia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
1. Reduces stress
One of the main benefits of tai chi is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, though most evidence is anecdotal.
In 2018, one study compared the effects of tai chi on stress-related anxiety to traditional exercise. The study included 50 participants. The researchers found that tai chi provided the same benefits for managing stress-related anxiety as exercise. Because tai chi also includes meditation and focused breathing, the researchers noted that tai chi may be superior to other forms of exercise for reducing stress and anxiety. However, a larger-scale study is needed.
Tai chi is very accessible and lower impact than many other forms of exercise. The researchers found it to be safe and inexpensive, so it may be a good option if you are otherwise healthy and experiencing stress-related anxiety.
2. Improves mood
Tai chi may help improve your mood if you are depressed or anxious. Preliminary research suggests that regularly practicing tai chi can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s believed that the slow, mindful breaths and movements have a positive effect on the nervous system and mood-regulating hormones. Further research is being done to establish a clear link between tai chi and improved mood.
3. Better sleep
Regularly practicing tai chi may help you to have more restful sleep.
One study followed young adults with anxiety after they were prescribed two tai chi classes each week, for 10 weeks. Based on participant reporting, the individuals who practiced tai chi experienced significant improvements in their quality of sleep compared to those in the control group. This same group also experienced a decrease in their anxiety symptoms.
Tai chi can improve sleep for older adults, too. In a study published in 2016, researchers found that two months of twice-weekly tai chi classes was associated with better sleep in older adults with cognitive impairment.
4. Promotes weight loss
Regularly practicing tai chi can result in weight loss. One study tracked changes in weight in a group of adults practicing tai chi five times a week for 45 minutes. At the end of the 12 weeks, these adults lost a little over a pound without making any additional lifestyle changes.
5. Improves cognition in older adults
Tai chi may improve cognition in older adults with cognitive impairment. More specifically, tai chi may help improve memory and executive functioning skills like paying attention and carrying out complex tasks.
6. Reduces risk of falling in older adults
Tai chi can help improve balance and motor function, and reduce fear of falling in older adults. It can also reduce actual falls after 8 weeks of practice, and significantly reduce falls after 16 weeks of practice. Because fear of falling can reduce independence and quality of life, and falls can lead to serious complications, tai chi may offer the additional benefit of improving quality of life and general well-being in older adults.
7. Improves fibromyalgia symptoms
Tai chi may compliment traditional methods for management of certain chronic diseases.
Results from a 2018 study showed that a consistent tai chi practice can decrease the symptoms of fibromyalgia in some people. Participants in the study who practiced tai chi for 52 weeks exhibited greater improvements in their fibromyalgia-related symptoms when compared to participants practicing aerobics. Learn about other alternative treatments for fibromyalgia symptoms.
8. Improves COPD symptoms
Tai chi may improve some of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In one study, people with COPD practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, they have improvements in their ability to exercise and reported an overall improvement in their quality of life.
9. Improves balance and strength in people with Parkinson’s
In a randomized, controlled trial of 195 participants, regular practice of tai chi was found to decrease the number of falls in people with Parkinson’s disease. Tai chi can also help you to increase leg strength and overall balance.
10. Safe for people with coronary heart disease
Tai chi is a safe form of moderate exercise you can try if you have coronary heart disease. Following a cardiovascular event, regular tai chi practices may help you:
- increase physical activity
- lose weight
- improve your quality of life
11. Reduces pain from arthritis
In a small-scale 2010 study, 15 participants with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the participants reported less pain and improved mobility and balance.
A larger, earlier study found similar results in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). In this study, 40 participants with knee OA practiced 60 minutes of tai chi, two times a week for 12 weeks. Following the study, participants reported a reduction in pain and an improvement in mobility and quality of life.
When compared to physical therapy, tai chi has also been found to be as effective in the treatment of knee OA.
Always talk to your doctor before starting tai chi if you have arthritis. You may need to do modified versions of some of the movements.
Is tai chi safe?
Tai chi is generally considered to be a safe exercise with few side effects. You may experience some aches or pains after practicing tai chi if you’re a beginner. More rigorous forms of tai chi and improper practice of tai chi are associated with increased risk of injury to joints. Especially if you’re new to tai chi, consider attending a class or working with an instructor to reduce your risk of injury.
If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.
How to start tai chi
Tai chi focuses on proper posture and exact movements, something that is difficult to learn on your own. If you’re new to tai chi, take a class or get an instructor.
Tai chi is taught in studios all over the United States and other countries. Larger gyms, like the YMCA, sometimes offer tai chi classes as well.
Choosing a tai chi style
There are five different styles of tai chi, and each style can be modified to suit your goals and personal fitness level. All styles of tai chi incorporate continuous movement from one pose to the next.
- Yang style tai chi focuses on slow, graceful movements and relaxation. Yang style is a good starting point for beginners.
- Wu style tai chi places an emphasis on micro-movements. This style of tai chi is practiced very slowly.
- Chen style tai chi uses both slow and fast movements. This style of tai chi might be difficult for you if you’re new to the practice.
- Sun style tai chi shares a lot of similarities with Chen style. Sun style involves less crouching, kicking, and punching, making it less physically demanding.
- Hao style tai chi is a lesser-known and rarely practiced style. This style of tai chi is defined by a focus on accurate position and internal strength.
How does tai chi differ from yoga?
Tai chi emphasizes fluid movement and has roots in Chinese culture. Yoga focuses on posing and originated in Northern India.
Both tai chi and yoga are forms of exercise that involve meditation and deep breathing, and they have similar benefits, such as:
- relieves stress
- improves mood
- Improves sleep
Tai chi is an exercise that can benefit both healthy adults and adults living with a chronic condition.
The benefits of tai chi include:
- better sleep
- weight loss
- improved mood
- management of chronic conditions
If you’re interested in trying tai chi, an instructor can help you get started. Classes are offered in specialized studios, community centers, and gyms.
The coronavirus pandemic is understandably causing panic in many people. Yet, fear doesn’t help anything. So how can you remain calm—and healthy—and help others in the process? How can you be a positive emotional contagion that helps not only yourself but others feel better about the global situation?
Buying six months’ worth of toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning goods, and food won’t help. Really.
Yes, it might give you a little peace of mind. I know my full pantry, refrigerator, and freezer (and large package of TP) do, indeed, provide me with a sense of security during this pandemic.
But purchasing more than what you need for a week or two, stockpiling as if the world were ending…that isn’t helpful. First, it leaves others without supplies—ones they might actually need. (Some people are out of toilet paper and just want a few rolls!) Second, the buying frenzy only adds to the emotional upheaval, panic, and overwhelm you and others feel.
So, let’s talk about what will help you stay calm and healthy during a pandemic.
In North America as in most parts of the world, we are focused on taking precautions and acting wisely. We are practicing social distancing by staying home more, not gathering in large groups, and washing our hands and using hand sanitizer…a lot.
We are also doing other things. My acupuncturist closed his clinic to do a deep clean. My husband is being interviewed virtually for a gig (rather than in person). Companies have asked employees to work from home. My 96-year-old mom’s new doctor told her not to come to the office for a routine visit.
The key is to avoid potential exposure—from you or someone else, like eating out, attending large events, spending time in crowded places, or flying. Yet, you also want to live your life to the fullest extent possible.
How can you live fully while stuck at home? It’s not as hard as it seems.
Stay focused on your priorities and take action in ways that are appropriate and safe. For example, you can hunker down and write your book, shoot and share videos to promote a product, conduct virtual meetings, build the website you never have time to create, declutter, and exercise from the comfort of your home.
Or be a positive force for good. A friend of mine said she had started calling those people she knows who live alone. A neighbor of mine that goes into town daily offered to shop for those in our community who can’t or don’t want to leave their homes.
4 Ways to Stay Calm During a Pandemic
See yourself as a leader and role model. Your job is to be calm and centered amidst the chaos. That means you have to quell your own fear and panic.
Here are four ways to remain calm:
1. Limit your intake of news. I’m not saying you shouldn’t remain informed. Of course, you want to do so! But don’t watch the news incessantly.
I remember after 9/11, I watched identical CNN broadcasts for hours waiting for a new report. I have found myself doing the same in the last few days…watching or listening to the news to hear updated news about the pandemic.
Constant consumption of news just feeds your panic and fear. Watch the news only once or twice per day. In this way, you remain informed without allowing yourself to obsess all day long. I, too, have begun to limit how much I watch the news or consume information about the coronavirus via social media or the Internet.
2. Stay busy. If you have nothing to do, you will find your mind trained on fearful thoughts. Or you will seek out other panicky people on social media or television.
Focus on your agenda. What did you want to get done today? What projects could use your attention? Take action on these things so your mind and body remain busy…and calm.
Plus, being productive will make you feel better in general.
3. Increase your mental, emotional and physical self-care routines. These will provide you with a more peaceful countenance no matter what is going on around you.
Now is the time to increase or start a meditation practice. Try meditating twice daily.
Make sure you exercise daily. Exercise makes you happier and reduces stress. Plus, it helps you remain healthy. Try a quick walk outside to boost your mood.
Train your brain on the positive. What might you gain by staying home for a few weeks? How might you make being housebound a pleasant experience? What might be the outcome of a self-quarantine—for yourself and others?
4. Have faith. It’s been said that faith is more important than fear, and in the case of a pandemic, that’s true.
We know that “this, too, will pass.” So focus on a positive future, one where no one gets the coronavirus, travel bans are lifted, large gatherings are safe, and you no longer need to stay at home.
7 Ways to Take Care of Yourself During a Pandemic
Now is a great time to take a serious look at your health routines. Are you taking good care of yourself? Not only do you want to increase your level of emotional and mental health by staying calm, but you also want to improve your physical health.
To help you boost your immune system and ward off illness, here are seven common-sense things you can start doing today.
1. Wash Your Hands (and More)
You’ve heard this ad nauseam and seen all the cartoons as well, but it’s sound advice. Wash your hands for more extended periods and more often—especially after touching surfaces, shaking hands, handling any items made of plastic, glass, or cardboard. Wash your hands also after opening mail, receiving packages, or putting away groceries.
Along with hand washing comes the following advice: avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes (especially if you haven’t washed your hands first).
If you feel unwell or have a compromised immune system, consider wearing a mask, too.
2. Use Hand Sanitizer and Sanitizing Wipes
I know these can be difficult to find right now, but if you have some, use them to clean surfaces and to cleanse your hands after touching anything. Don’t forget to wipe off the plastic or cardboard boxes of food you purchase at stores or any packages your receive via mail delivery services—or wash your hands afterward.
The Internet has a host of articles on making your own hand sanitizer and wipes. So, if you can’t purchase any, make your own.
3. Sleep Enough
If you are working from home or quarantined for any reason—sick or not, sleep needs to become your priority. Actually, even if you are still working, sleep should be non-negotiable.
To boost your immune system, sleep eight hours per night…or more. Sleep helps fight off infectious diseases. In fact, there are studies that show that sleeping less than seven hours increases your chances of getting sick considerably. This is not the time to be sleeping only five or six hours per night!
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
Help your body fight off illness and stay strong by eating healthy foods rather than sweets and junk. You’d be amazed at how much difference a nutrient-rich diet makes on your immune system.
And cook healthy meals at home for the time being. Stop frequenting restaurants, salad bars, and fast-food places. Even take-out or delivery could introduce a source of infection.
5. Boost Your Immune System
If you don’t already take multi-vitamins, start doing so. I could go into a long discussion of what supplements to take, but I’m not an expert or doctor. Find a herbalist or nutritional counselor who can help you determine what supplements are best for you.
There are also a host of herbs that boost your immune system. Of course, check with your doctor before adding anything new to your diet.
Some people will claim that supplements and herbs are effective only because of their placebo effect. It doesn’t matter why they work; all that matters is that they help you stay healthy.
6. Lower Your Stress Level
The immune system reacts badly to stress. Fear and anxiety put your body into the flight-or-fight mode, which is driven by your sympathetic nervous system. This response is your body’s reaction to danger and helps you survive stressful and life-threatening situations.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “During the fight or flight response, your body is trying to prioritize, so anything it doesn’t need for immediate survival is placed on the back burner. This means that digestion, reproductive and growth hormone production, and tissue repair are all temporarily halted. Instead, your body is using all its energy on the most crucial priorities and functions.”
The article goes on to explain, “Living in a prolonged state of high alert and stress can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.” Indeed, chronic stress is known to suppress immune function and increase susceptibility to disease.
So…again…stay calm! Meditate. Pray. Exercise. Watch funny movies. Go for a walk in the woods or on the beach. Take a nap. Read a book.
Don’t watch the news or engage in conversations about the pandemic that raises your level of stress.
7. Focus on the Positive
Drop the end-of-the-world mindset. Be a positive emotional contagion. Guide conversations toward something other than the pandemic. Be happy and upbeat and help others stop feeding the negative emotional cycle.
And think positive thoughts. Feel grateful for whatever you can—the rain, the sun, your elderly parents’ safety, the paycheck you just received, the spring flowers in bloom, the call from your friend or child, the extra time to read a book, or the new opportunities coming your way.
While you are at it, stop complaining about things that are out of your control, like empty shelves at the supermarket, the kids being home from school, not being able to attend a concert or the theater, or anything else. Complaining doesn’t help you or anyone else.
You will find it easier to stay positive and grateful if you remain present. Stop focusing on the past or the future. Stay in this moment.
This, Too, Shall Pass
Finally, remember, this pandemic will pass. It may take a little while, but the coronavirus will peter out. When it does, you and I—and the entire world—will be more prepared next time, if there is a next time. And we will find that the aftermath provides new opportunities, deepened relationships, and a different view of what it means to be part of a global community.
While you wait for the situation to change, be a force for good—a positive emotional contagion that infects everyone you encounter. By staying positive, calm, and healthy, you keep those around you calm and healthy, too.
If you have helpful advice to add to this post, please share it in a comment below. And share this post with anyone you feel might benefit.
Note: It’s important to stay informed about the state of coronavirus for the health and safety of your friends, family, and co-workers. Please visit the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control websites for up-to-date information. Also, be sure to check out your local health agencies and authorities for updates about your area.
Staying Healthy During a Pandemic: 10 Immune-Boosting Tips
During the current coronavirus outbreak, you’re probably (very rightfully so!) concerned for your health and that of your family. The CDC has several recommendations for preventative action against coronavirus, including social distancing, hand-washing, and clean frequently touched surfaces daily.
We 100% agree with all of these recommendations, but additionally believe it’s prudent to do everything possible to boost your immune system to decrease the likelihood of getting sick (with coronavirus or any other seasonal bug, for that matter!)
Here are 10 easy ways you can help strengthen your immune system.
Eat immune-boosting foods.
Take immune-boosting supplements.
Raise your core body temperature. Studies have found evidence that higher body temps help certain types of immune cells to work better, and thus make it better able to fight infection. Your body knows what it’s doing when you have a fever while sick! It’s thought that you can encourage the same benefits by proactively raising your body temp.
Try a sauna, steam bath, or move your body to break a sweat.
The more diverse your diet (and especially veggie intake), the better!
Take antiviral supplements.
Prioritize sleep: studies show that sleep can help build your immune system and fight infection.
Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Need some help getting a good night of rest? Check out these tips!
Get your exercise on! Exercise has many great benefits and one of those is that it builds a stronger immune system.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise a week – we say shoot for at least 20 minutes a day, every single day. Check out this 7-minute at-home workout that works – do it 3x for bonus points.
Ditch bad habits such as smoking and excessive drinking, as they can decrease ability to fight infection.
Reduce stress. The hormones released when you are stressed have been shown to have a negative effect on the immune system.
Get some sunshine. A natural dose of vitamin D from the sun can do wonders not only for your mood but also your immune system – studies have shown that it can even decrease the length and severity of infections.
Go outside for at least 15-20 minutes a day even if it’s just on your patio or backyard.
Have any other immune-boosting best practices? We would love to hear them! Please share them at email@example.com.