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Your Self-Care Toolkit For Dealing With The Tough COVID-19 Months Ahead

Let these tips help you through the difficult days during the coronavirus pandemic that are inevitably on the horizon.

Feeling blue? You’re not alone. The COVVID-19 pandemic has had clear repercussions for mental health, with some people impacted more than others.

A study published in the Lancet journal comparing our mental health in April 2019 to this year found the prevalence of “clinically significant” levels of mental distress have risen from 18.9% to 27.3%. Increases were greatest among 18- to 34-year-olds, women and people living with young children.

With local lockdowns coming back into effect across parts of the globe, more people are once again confined to their homes without social contact, and many of us are experiencing an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.

Niall Campbell, a psychiatrist and consultant in the UK, is also worried about the impact of what he calls “COVID burnout” on the generation of women who are “sandwiched” between jobs, a dependent child and an adult relative who requires care.

Many people are working long hours through fear of losing their job and because days and nights are blurring into one, he adds – and alcohol can become a crutch for some when there’s an absence of support. “Long hours generally mean less sleep, poorer diet, less exercise, more stress, feeling you are constantly ‘on’ and having to prove yourself,” he says.

On top of that, as autumn turns to winter, some of us are facing down the prospect of seasonal affective disorder, which sees roughly 1 in 15 in the UK hit with feelings of lethargy and depression on a life-altering scale.

So, how can you keep your head above water in the months ahead? Thankfully, there are ways. Here’s your ultimate self-care toolkit”

Take your annual leave, even if you stay home

Ever-changing restrictions make planning hard, but taking leave is crucial right now – even if the only place you go is your living room.

Gary Wood, author of “The Psychology of Wellbeing” (out in October), says a well-earned break is crucial for us to reflect and plan. “When we relax, we access the full range of higher-level functions such as problem-solving and planning,” he says. “But over the pandemic, we might have not had the time out to stock-take and plan.”

If you can’t go anywhere, Wood recommends creating a mini-break or spa day at home. Stuck for ideas of what to do? Holistic health and lifestyle coach Milla Lascelles previously shared her top tips with HuffPost UK.

Keep in touch with loved ones

“News of tightening of social measures to combat the rising number of COVID-19 infections will be making the winter months ahead look even darker for many people,” says Keith Grimes, a physician for online doctor service Babylon.

Feelings of sadness are understandable, he notes, but know that we have learned a huge amount about how to reduce the spread of this illness and treat it successfully. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

During this time it’s important to stay in touch with friends and family, he says. If you live alone, it’s worth bubbling up with another household so you can spend time with them. And if you can’t see others, it might help to schedule regular FaceTime conversations or phone calls with your nearest and dearest.

Aragona Giuseppe, a physician and medical advisor for Prescription Doctor, says calling friends and family will not only lift you, but also be a lovely surprise for the other person. “We may not be able to meet all our friends at the pub, but a Zoom call or a phone call should help to boost your mood and remind you what’s waiting at the end of this lockdown.”

Social media can be useful for keeping in touch with others however it should complement phone calls and face-to-face chats, rather than replace them.

Plan time to enjoy yourself

We might be stuck at home but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan smaller activities to look forward to – whether that’s a long walk, a movie night or a visit to that restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out for some time.

“Make sure you plan time to enjoy yourself, exercise and get outside in nature and experience the change of the seasons in person,” advises Grimes.

Failing that, why not treat yourself to a pamper day? Hair salons, nail places and spas are still open and in need of your support. (Just wear a mask when you go, of course.)

Create a self-care box

One of experts’ top tips for people with SAD is to fill a box with things that comfort you or help you to relax – also known as a self-care box.

Try including your favorite book or film, and a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts or notes of encouragement to yourself.

Not feeling up to the task? Order one. For example, the depression charity Blurt has created a self-care subscription box called The BuddyBox, which is full of mood-lifting treats. Each box contains at least five surprise products hand-picked to nourish, inspire and encourage self-care.

Keep active

It might be hard to find the motivation to move your body, especially as the days get shorter and the temperature drops, but it’s really important to try and stick to an exercise regime if you can.

“Exercise is not only a great way to keep yourself fit and healthy but will also increase your overall mood from the endorphins being released during and after each session,” Giuseppe says.

You don’t have to do anything too strenuous ― even moving your body once a day can help improve your mood, he says. This could mean getting out each day for a brisk walk or doing a bit of yoga. And with it getting darker earlier, it might be best to schedule it in for first thing in the morning, or on your lunch break, rather than after work.

Start or learn something new

If there’s one thing we learned during the beginning of the pandemic, it’s how to amuse ourselves. Keeping occupied with hobbies or learning new skills can help us take our mind off the bigger picture, which, let’s face it, is pretty overwhelming.

People will undoubtedly feel increased stress and anxiety over work and the possibility of redundancy in the coming months, says Giuseppe. While there’s not much you can do about job security, there are ways to take control of other parts of your life, he says.

“Learning a new skill may help to keep you busy and your mind occupied, whether that is something you’re passionate about that you’ve never taken further or a new outdoor hobby such as cycling,” he says. “Taking up something which you can use to burn energy and keep yourself busy will really help with your long-term physical and mental health.”

It can be useful to set goals – and these can center around your hobbies, too. That could be wanting to learn a certain amount of phrases in Spanish by Christmas, for example, or being able to run a mile non-stop by January.

Claudia Pastides, also a physician with Babylon, urges people to put their efforts into something productive which can help them feel good about themselves, whether that’s organizing your cupboards, painting your front door, or upcycling and selling old furniture.

“All these things are positive tasks or hobbies that you can put your energy into and make you feel good at the end,” she says. “Motivation comes from inside us all. We are in charge of creating it and holding on to it.”

computer

Do what you can to stay safe

Adopting COVID-19 safety measures can actually help people’s mental health, according to Penn State University research. Researchers surveyed participants between the ages of 18 and 90, measuring how much they felt the pandemic was affecting them financially, physically, socially and mentally; whether they were adhering to recommendations such as mask wearing; and what kinds of coping strategies they were using.

“Things like keeping a consistent schedule, reminding yourself that things will get better, finding activities to distract yourself, and taking care of others who need help are all helpful,” says Erina MacGeorge, professor of communication arts and sciences.

“Additionally, adhering to the national recommendations for protecting oneself from COVID-19, like hand-washing, social distancing and masking, was also associated with better mental health.”

“Sometimes we need to take a break from thinking about how we feel and do something to help alleviate the threat and make us feel a lot better about our situation in life,” says Jessica Myrick, an associate professor of media studies.

“COVID-related messages that emphasize that even small actions are worthwhile might have the doubly positive effect of getting people to take small actions, like washing their hands more often, but also alleviate some mental strain, too.”

Structure your day

Humans are creatures of habit and we (understandably) like to feel in control, so sticking to a structure – where possible – can be incredibly stabalizing. Planning your day out can also be helpful if you struggle with SAD.

“Try to maintain the same structure as you had back in the pre-quarantine days,” says Giuseppe, noting that parents will likely find sticking to a daily routine much easier than just seeing how the days go. “When working from home, it can be tempting to fall into a bit of a lethargic lifestyle which could lead to negative thoughts and feelings of worthlessness.”

So, wake up early, change out of your pajamas, do a bit of exercise and get into some comfy work clothes – maybe take a walk around the block to act as a faux commute, or make yourself a nice coffee to set you up for the day. Eating balanced meals and sticking to a regular sleep routine is also crucial.

“Keeping your normal exercise routine is imperative and also making your work space separate from your living space should help you to separate your working day to your evening routine,” adds Giuseppe.

Rethink your social circles

Another finding from Penn State’s research is that “social strain” – such as someone making demands, giving criticism, or simply getting on your nerves – is a strong and consistent predictor of poor mental health.

Yanmengqian Zhou, a graduate assistant in communication arts and sciences, says “this suggests that in difficult times like this, it could be particularly important to proactively structure our social networks in ways that minimize negative social experiences.”

Choose your friends wisely and don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do – these are challenging times and you need to be kind to yourself.

Another reason to focus on your friendship list is that both good and bad moods can be “picked up” from friends, according to the University of Warwick.

Researchers found that having more friends who suffer worse moods is associated with a higher probability of an individual experiencing low moods and a decreased probability of them improving. The opposite applied to those who had a more positive social circle.

Turn off the news when you need to

One tip therapists and doctors swear by is not to overdo your exposure to news and keeping on top of all things COVID.

“Avoid excessive watching of coronavirus coverage,” says Giuseppe. “It’s good to keep up to date with what’s going on however watching the news reel 24/7 will likely have detrimental effects on your mental health and will cause your stress and anxiety levels to rise.”

“You can’t change or fix what is happening so obsessing over the news will not help you get through the next six months,“Giuseppe adds. “If you want to keep abreast of the news, limit it to one news update per day, or every few days.”

Keep your friends close and your pets closer

Pet owners know that animals can be a huge boost to mental health – and new research backs this up.

The study, conducted from March to June this year by the University of York and the University of Lincoln, found that having a pet was linked to better mental health and reduced loneliness. More than 90% of respondents said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown and 96% said their pet helped keep them fit and active.

Daniel Mills, the study’s co-author, says the research indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lockdown.

Elena Ratschen, the study’s lead author, warned that people shouldn’t necessarily rush to acquire a pet during the pandemic. But for those who do own animals – especially those who adopted pets during lockdown – the finding will surely be of comfort.

Shift your thinking

It can be hard to stay positive when everything feels like it’s working against you, however there are some ways we can reframe our thinking to focus on the positives, rather than all the negatives.

“Maintain an attitude of curiosity about the world and practice gratitude, even for the small stuff,” says Wood. “At the end of each day, write down three things you’re grateful for, and at the start of each day write down three things you’re looking forward to.”

For example, rather than thinking “I’m stuck inside,” Giuseppe suggests trying “I am stuck inside, however I can use this time to work on myself and my passions.”

The first lockdown has left us more prepared, we now know what to expect, and we can use this knowledge to our advantage. “If there’s something you wanted to start but never had the time, then this could be the moment,” Giuseppe said.

Don’t be afraid to seek help

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can still feel down or anxious, says Pastides. If it gets to the point where every day is a struggle, this is the time to seek help.

“Reach out to your GP, or a friend, and speak about how you’re feeling,” she says. “You won’t be alone in having those feelings and there is help available.”

Your doctor should be able to offer more support and can also help with treatment options, which can include talking therapies or medication.

Dave Smithson, from Anxiety UK, urges people to surround themselves with a support network – and if you don’t have anyone in your life you feel comfortable talking to about how you feel, try a local peer-support groups.

“Talking to people and sharing your thoughts and feelings with others in similar situations can be really supportive,” he previously told HuffPost UK. “They understand what you’re going through and what you’re dealing with because they’re in the same boat.”

This post originally appeared in HuffPost UK.

by Natasha Hinde – Lifestyle Writer at The Huffington Post UK     09/30/2020

source: www.huffingtonpost.ca


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Healthy Habits for Working From Home

8 Healthy Habits for Working From Home

For some of us, working from home is normal, but for others, this pandemic may have you working remotely for the first time. Whichever category you fit into, it’s important to have healthy habits when working from your home “office”.

  1. Pretend like you are actually going into the office. Set your alarm, make coffee, take a shower and change out of your pjs to help you get into the “I’m going to work” mindset.
  2. Set boundaries such as defined hours and breaks throughout the day. Just as you would leave the office, you need to know when to stop working and take a breather for a good work-life balance.
  3. Don’t forget to give your eyes a break too! It’s not healthy for your eyes to be glued to a screen all day. Several times throughout the day, take a few minutes to look at something else to make sure you’re not straining your eyes.
  4. Working from home with your new “co-workers” could take some getting used too. Stock up on time consuming projects like, puzzles, crafts or activity books help to keep the kiddos busy. Take advantage of video chatting to continue learning opportunities such as piano lessons. Mix up your hours (if your job allows) – try to squeeze in work when your toddler is asleep such as early morning, nap times and at night – you’ll be more productive if you have quiet time to yourself.
  5. Create a dedicated work space – although it’s tempting to work from your bed, it’s important to set up a dedicated work space with a door that you can close if you need to drown out the noise of your pets, kids or TV to remain productive and professional. Also, if possible, invest in a good chair. Your home chair/desk/keyboard setup might not be the same as at the office and comfy sofas or bed pillows don’t offer the necessary support for your back, which can lead to poor posture and back, shoulder and neck pain.
  6. Set goals by writing out a daily and weekly to-do list involving your work and the tasks that need completing.
  7. Working from home can be isolating especially if you’re used to a busy office environment – check-in with people throughout the day. Just because everyone is practicing social distancing doesn’t mean you need to actually feel so distant.
  8. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy food. Since you’re now so close to your kitchen, it’s even easier to snack on everything and anything. To avoid unhealthy snacking, keep healthy snacks readily available. Drink a lot of water throughout the day, too, which can help curb mindless snacking.

March 23, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story
Michael Carson, M.D. contributes to topics such as Internal Medicine.

source: www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org

 

work-from-home

 

 

5 Healthy Habits for When You’re Working From Home

We all know working from home can be both a blessing and a curse. Gone are the days of commuting to the office, and in are the days where you roll out of bed and hop onto the computer, right?!

For the majority of us, working from home requires a lot of willpower and developing loads of healthy habits to stay on top of work and home life together.

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to get distracted by household chores, friends and family and find the motivation to get on with the hard work tasks that simply need to get done.

So to help, I’ve put together 5 work from home tips and healthy habits that you can start implementing in your working life.

Working from home and starting your own service-based business? Sign up for my free workshop and start making some money on the side.

Develop a morning routine

I’ve heard it a million times, to get the most of your work from home life, a little discipline goes a long way.

However, where I differ is I’m not encouraging you to get up at 4 am, do some yoga, make a smoothie, journal and meditate. Instead, I believe in a simple and tailored approach that’s tailored to you.

A routine is simply something you do over and over again to flip the switch in your brain to tell you it’s time to get into ‘work mode’.

For you that might mean waking at 7 am, making a cup of coffee and reading. For someone else, it might mean waking at 6 am, getting your kids ready for school, dropping them off and then unwinding before work with a hot drink and a book.

Experiment and find a routine that works for your unique situation, is easy and enjoyable and the rest will fall into place.

Open windows even in the winter

We’re spending more and more time indoors and because of this, our indoor air quality is suffering.

“Indoor air pollution is dust, dirt or gases in the air inside a building such as your home or workplace that harms us if we breathe it in.”

What’s more, if you have any kind of lung disease such as asthma, then you’re indoor air quality should be something to take seriously.

“Indoor air is often 10 times more polluted than outdoor air and as people spend 90% of their time indoors the importance of indoor air quality is critical to health and wellbeing.”

One of the simplest things you can do to improve the air quality in your home is to open your windows. Even in the cold months, for just a few hours a day, you could vastly improve the air quality in your home.

Once you do it, you’ll realize how heavy your air was and as a bonus, the new fresh air will give you a boost, trust me.

Move your body

I like to keep things simple, so the next healthy habit is determined by you. If you’re working from home, chances are you’re not moving from your desk very often.

The fact is, the human body was not built to withstand this much sitting. Depending on your ability and desire, anything from a few desk stretches, to a lunchtime walk would give your body and your brain the boost it needs to keep those creative juices flowing.

Because let’s be real, the last thing we’re all thinking about when working is doing 50 lunges or rolling out a dusty yoga mat.

Plan breaks

When you’re working on a project, writing, or generally doing any kind of absorbing task, it’s easy to lose track of time. The last thing you want is to be working so hard that you miss a valuable snack or coffee break.

Set a rough schedule for yourself and stick notifications on your phone to remind you. Or if you’re a bit more analogue, write it in your to-do list to take breaks at certain times of the day.

Here’s mine as an example:

11 am – coffee break (snack if required)

12 noon – lunch

3 pm – snack break or simply walk around a bit

“Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative.”

Even if you’re not hungry or would rather keep working, these breaks act as a switch in your mind to take a break. Your brain simply can’t keep working for hours straight, give it a rest and give your body some fuel.

Remove your distractions 

It’s no surprise that when we’re working from home it’s almost impossible not to get distracted. In fact, it’s the reason why we’re developing these healthy habits in the first place.

Raise your hand if any of these distractions apply to you:

Social media

Email

Friends messaging you

Family ringing you

Family in the room with you (I’m talking about you, kids)

Unwashed dishes

Other people’s clutter

Your own clutter

Anything and everything that isn’t your work

Yeah, I raised my hand multiple times too!

The fact is, we can never remove 100% of our work from home distractions. After all, we are working from home, not a remote cabin in the woods. But we can reduce that list significantly.

If social media is your problem, remove the apps from your phone. Is it email? Schedule to read at only certain times of the day. If it’s friends and family, start setting boundaries with them. If it’s household mess and chores, ask your family to help, or schedule in time to clear your space. After all, your home is your office, it needs to be treated as one.

Roundup

Creating healthy habits for your work from home life can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting out, or things have gotten out of hand.

If this is the case, I recommend starting with just one of these and implementing the changes over the course of a few weeks. Then add another. Be patient, your ideal work from home life will take time to happen.

by Gina Lucia      10 October 2019

source: limitbreaker.co

How to Work From Home and Stay Healthy

Healthy habits when working from home


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Poor Sleep Linked to Weight Gain

in 2-year smartphone sleep tracking study
 
Not sleeping enough or getting a bad night’s sleep over and over makes it hard to control your appetite. And that sets you up for all sorts of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
The link between poor sleep and a greater body mass index (BMI) has been shown in study after study, but researchers typically relied on the memories of the participants to record how well they slept.
Sleep apps on fitness trackers, smartphones and watches have changed all that. In a new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tracked sleep quality for 120,000 people for up to two years.
The results showed sleep durations and patterns are highly variable between people. Despite that, the study found people with BMIs of 30 or above – which is considered obese by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – had slightly shorter mean sleep durations and more variable sleep patterns.
It didn’t take much less sleep to see the effect. People with BMIs over 30 only slept about 15 minutes less than their less weighty counterparts.
There were some limitations to the study. Naps were excluded, other health conditions could not be factored in, and people who use wearable tracking devices are typically younger, healthier and from a higher socioeconomic status than those who do not wear trackers.
“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.
However, Dasgupta added, a major plus for the study is that it did monitor people for over two years, and the results corroborated prior research and were “not surprising.”
“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

There is a scientific reason why a lack of sleep is linked to appetite. When you’re sleep deprived, research has shown, levels of a hormone called ghrelin spike while another hormone, leptin, takes a nosedive. The result is an increase in hunger.
“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.
Another reason we gain weight is due to an ancient body system called the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana, which as we know, often triggers the “munchies.”
“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?”
A 2016 study by Hanlon compared the circulating levels of 2-AG, one of the most abundant endocannabinoids, in people who got four nights of normal sleep (more than eight hours) to people who only got 4.5 hours.
People who were sleep-deprived reported greater increases in hunger and appetite and had higher afternoon concentrations of 2-AG than those who slept well. The sleep-deprived participants also had a rough time controlling their urges for high-carb, high-calorie snacks.

GET BETTER SLEEP

Want more control over your appetite? Depending on your age, you are supposed to get between seven and 10 hours of sleep each night.
Getting less has been linked in studies to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, a lack of libido, mood swings, paranoia, depression and a higher risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, dementia and some cancers.
So sleep a full seven to 10 hours a night, stick to a regular bedtime and get up the same time very day, even on weekends, experts advise.
Adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to improve your sleep and improve your health. After finishing one 30-minute physical activity, you’ll have less anxiety, lower blood pressure, more sensitivity to insulin and you’ll sleep better that night.
You can also train your brain to get more restful sleep with a few key steps:
  •  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.
Sandee LaMotte      CNN     Monday, September 14, 2020
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10 Ways Sleep Can Change Your Life

What if someone told you there was a magic potion by which you could prevent disease, improve your intellect, reduce your stress and be nicer to your family while you’re all cooped up together during the pandemic?
It sounds too good to be true, as if solving those problems would really require dietary supplements, workout programs, diets, meditation and a separate room to cry alone.
It turns out that sleep, according to numerous studies, is the answer. It’s the preventive medicine for conditions related to our physical, mental and emotional health. And despite how important sleep is, it can be difficult to make it a priority.
“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.”
A sleep routine is just one of the behaviors that is part of sleep hygiene, a buffet of efforts needed to sleep well that include eating healthy meals at regular times and not drinking too much coffee, said Dr. Meir Kryger, a professor of pulmonary medicine and a clinical professor of nursing at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.
“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.”
Once you’ve developed your sleep routine,
here are 10 benefits you could gain from the regimen.
1. Helps your body heal and repair itself
Our nightly shut-eye is our bodies’ time for healing and repairing itself from performing its taxing daily functions.
“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.
2. Lowers risk for disease
Sleep on its own is a protective factor against disease.
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.
3. Improves cognitive function
Sleep feeds our creativity and cognitive function, which describes our mental abilities to learn, think, reason, remember, problem solve, make decisions and pay attention.
“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.”
4. Reduces stress
Slumber of great quantity and quality can enhance your mood and also encourage the brain’s ability to regulate emotional responses to both neutral and emotional events.
5. Helps maintain a healthy weight
Getting your beauty sleep can help you to maintain a healthy weight or increase your chances of losing excess fat.
Two hormones control our urge to eat: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells us that we’re full, while ghrelin communicates hunger.
When we don’t sleep enough, both hormones veer in the wrong direction, Kryger said — ghrelin spikes while leptin declines, resulting in an increase in hunger and the potential to overeat and gain weight.
Sleep helps our bodies to maintain normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well, which determines how we hang on to excess fat.
6. Bolsters your immune system
Kryger has seen the immune systems of patients with sleep disorders fail to normally function. Sleep helps our bodies to produce and release cytokines, a type of protein that helps create an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation.
Additionally, “research done actually years ago showed that when people are sleep deprived, they do not have as vigorous a response to vaccination,” Kryger added.
“As we’re thinking about vaccination that’s being developed” for Covid-19, that kind of research is going to be important.
7. May improve your social life
The emotional benefits of sleep can transfer over into your social life. “Just imagine you don’t sleep enough and you’re cranky,” Kryger said. “Who’s going to want to be around you? Another part of it is being cognitively sharp.”
Adequate sleep can help you to be more confident, be more easygoing and support your efforts to do your part at home, he added.
8. Supports your mental health
Mental health disorders are often associated with substandard sleep and a sleep deficit can lead to depressive symptoms even if the person doesn’t have the chronic disorder, Kryger said.
“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.”
9. Reduces pain sensitivity
Extending participants’ sleep time during the night or with midday naps, a 2019 study found, restored their pain sensitivity to normal levels in comparison to sleep-deprived individuals, who had a lower threshold for pain.
How this happens would have to be in the realm of perception, Kryger said, which ultimately traces back to the brain. “The brain is where sleep is,” he explained.
10. Increases your likelihood for overall success
Since sleep can improve our health on all fronts, it consequently can help us be the best versions of ourselves. Healthy cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, coping and social life are all foundational to pursuing and achieving our goals and overall well-being.
By Kristen Rogers, CNN       Tue August 4, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
sleep_snooze

 

People React Better to Both Negative and Positive Events
With More Sleep

Summary:
New research finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day — and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. This has important health implications: previous research shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
FULL STORY
New research from UBC finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day – and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. The study, led by health psychologist Nancy Sin, looks at how sleep affects our reaction to both stressful and positive events in daily life.
“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.”
People also reported a number of stressful events in their daily lives, including arguments, social tensions, work and family stress, and being discriminated against. When people slept less than usual, they responded to these stressful events with a greater loss of positive emotions. This has important health implications: previous research by Sin and others shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
Using daily diary data from a national U.S. sample of almost 2,000 people, Sin analyzed sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations the next day. The participants reported on their experiences and the amount of sleep they had the previous night in daily telephone interviews over eight days.
“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.”
Chronic health conditions – such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – are prevalent among adults, especially as we grow older. Past research suggests that people with health conditions are more reactive when faced with stressful situations, possibly due to wear-and-tear of the physiological stress systems.
“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.”
Sin hopes that by making sleep a priority, people can have a better quality of life and protect their long-term health.
Journal Reference:
Nancy L. Sin, Jin H. Wen, Patrick Klaiber, Orfeu M. Buxton, David M. Almeida. Sleep duration and affective reactivity to stressors and positive events in daily life.. Health Psychology, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/hea0001033
University of British Columbia. “People react better to both negative and positive events with more sleep.”  ScienceDaily, 15 September 2020
Materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.  September 15, 2020
 


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How To Get a Good Night’s Sleep Right Now

“Doesn’t it feel like the zombie apocalypse?” I recently asked my boyfriend. We were taking our daily sanity stroll when suddenly the sleep-deprived eyes peeking over surgical masks started to feel extra eerie. I may have even traumatized a small child in a window when I waved excitedly, forgetting a big black piece of fabric was covering half my face and I hadn’t bothered with concealer.

Honestly, the lack of concealer is probably what drove the poor thing to run. The insomnia has been brutal lately.

I’m certainly not alone. Everyone I speak to, from my grandmother to Kaia Gerber, mentions how badly they’ve been sleeping. That’s because the current situation is a veritable perfect storm for sleeplessness, and that goes for sassy 80-year-olds and teen top models alike.

“The biggest issue is stress and anxiety: worrying about your health, worrying about your job, worrying about your finances,” says Dr. Atul Khullar, medical director at the Northern Alberta Sleep Clinic and senior consultant at MedSleep.

Then there are the changes to your routine. “Being more restrained, not being able to get out as much, less light, less exercise, worse eating habits — it’s just a hurricane of things that can disrupt sleep.”

While we can’t control what’s going on in the world, there are some things we can do to help rest our minds and bodies, and get that much needed shut-eye.

Make sleep a priority

In our performance-obsessed culture, rest is often undervalued. A chronic lack of sleep is linked to a whole host of issues including heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes. “Some studies show you’re less likely to catch things, including the coronavirus, if you get proper sleep because sleep deprivation weakens your immune system, even in the short term,” says Khullar. Poor sleep also hikes stress hormones, which make it harder to deal with everything going on, on top of making us more irritable. “Sleep is going to get your entire family in a better mood,” says Alanna McGinn, sleep expert and founder of the Good Night Sleep Site. “We’re all stuck together, so we need to be as happy as we can.”

Stick to a schedule

With no commute to worry about, it’s tempting to sleep in more and, since you don’t have to wake up so early, you might be going to bed later, too. But all of this can throw off your sleep and your energy levels throughout the day. “A lot of people don’t have the discipline to keep the structure, so we find people not keeping consistent bedtimes or sometimes napping excessively,” says Khullar. McGinn says to set an alarm. “It doesn’t have to be as early as when you were going to work, but getting up at a more reasonable hour builds up more drive for sleep, which will help you fall asleep a lot better at night.” Regular exercise also helps with that and promotes a deeper, more restful sleep.

Make your bed sacred

Both experts are adamant your bed should be for sleep only. “Protecting your sleep space provides a positive association between sleep and your bed,” explains McGinn. “Now our bedrooms are becoming our home office and that can make falling asleep even harder.” What happens is your brain no longer equates being in bed with just sleeping, so you lose that signal to wind down. “If you start doing many other activities in bed, you can get very strong behavioural insomnia,” warns Khullar. This is also why you shouldn’t lie awake for long periods. “We should be sleeping 85 per cent of the time we’re in bed, so if you’re struggling with that, it’s OK to get out of bed for 10 to 15 minutes,” says McGinn. “Do a quiet activity in low light like reading or doing a puzzle — don’t turn on every light or check your email — then try again.”

sleep



Optimize your sleep space

There are plenty of small tweaks that can make your bedroom more conducive to sleep. Mornings are getting brighter, so incorporating blackout drapes can help keep your room dark. There’s also the matter of temperature. “The best sleeping temperature is usually a little cooler than people think: between 16 and 19 C,” says Khullar. McGinn suggests switching to more breathable bedding and moisture-wicking materials like bamboo, eucalyptus or linen. And if you sleep with a partner, don’t be afraid to customize your side. “You don’t need to have the same pillow, comforter and sheets,” she says. Finally, pay attention to how your room smells, too. Certain scents like lavender and camomile have been shown to promote sleep, so don’t discount those trendy diffusers and pillow sprays.

Implement a bedtime ritual

Pre-pillow quiet time is key to telling your brain you’re about to go to bed, say the pros. “It can be 10 minutes or 40 minutes, but there should be some time where you don’t do any other activities except prepare for bed,” says Khullar. For McGinn, that means putting down devices and steering clear of all things stressful. “We need boundaries on what we’re absorbing with the news and the scary stuff that we’re bringing into our brains right before going to bed,” she says. You also want to limit screen time in the evening as the artificial light confuses your internal clock. Things like meditation apps or relaxing podcasts can help get you into a calmer state.

Give your body a break

Another important part of prepping for bed is what you eat. Avoid big meals at least four hours before bed so that your body is not focused on digestion. “A lot of people are turning more to carbs and desserts right now, and if your body is not used to that it might have a harder time metabolizing it,” says McGinn. She suggests having sweets earlier in the day so that you’re not hyped up on sugar later. Many of us are also consuming more alcohol these days. “Alcohol is probably one of the worst things you can do for your sleep,” says Khullar. “It can put you to sleep, but that wears off quickly, and the sleep it gives you is artificial and not restful. Long term, it damages your ability to sleep.” What about weed? “If cannabis is helping you sleep, then maybe there’s something else that you need to look at, such as anxiety, depression or chronic pain,” says Khullar. “As a general rule, we don’t recommend people use anything to help them sleep without addressing it and getting assessed by a medical professional.” Many sleep clinics offer virtual consultations right now, so if you try these tips and still find yourself sleepless, reach out for help. From coping with the stress to staying healthy, you need your rest more than ever.

By Katherine Lalancette     Mon., June 22, 202
Katherine Lalancette is the beauty director of The Kit, based in Toronto.
Reach her on email at kl@thekit.ca or follow her on Twitter: @kik_tweets


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3 Mental Techniques That Boost Your Immune System

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.”

1. Loneliness

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.”

2. Sleep

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.

 

sleep

 

3. Stress

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.”

 

The studies were published in various journals (Cohen et al., 2011; Cohen et al., 2018; Prather et al., 2016).
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.

 

source: PsyBlog        March 28, 2020


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How People Are Practicing Healthier Behaviors in the Face of COVID-19

  • In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are getting motivated to make healthier choices and adopt healthier habits.
  • Some people living with chronic conditions have found they’re also vigilant about self-care.
  • Experts say even small changes can lead to big improvements in overall health.
  • With many things still shut down, experts say this is an excellent time to focus on your health.

Like most New Yorkers, Rob Taub, 64, has been sheltering in place as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the city and the nation at large.

For Taub, a writer and broadcaster who lives in the city’s Upper East Side neighborhood, there has been one surprising result of the radical day-to-day life changes brought about by the outbreak — his overall health has improved.

Taub has been living with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure for nearly 15 years. An athlete growing up, he said when he was in his 40s he “looked like an NFL player,” but then something changed as he got older.

“I started gaining 15 pounds a year. Soon I was 40 pounds, then 50 pounds overweight,” said Taub, who serves as an ambassador for the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Now, as he’s been adhering to physical distancing and stay-at-home guidelines, he’s found that his overall health has improved.

The man who ate out at restaurants for about 80 percent of his meals now cooks for himself at home. A big change has been salt intake.

“One of the things I switched to recently prior to COVID-19 was oatmeal because there’s no salt in it and I realized my blood pressure was going down while eating it,” he said. “When cooking for myself, there is no salt. I realize restaurant food is laden with salt and it’s not good for you.”

Taub takes his blood pressure every day — at the time of his interview with Healthline it was at 112/80 mm Hg — and has been able to cut back on his medications.

These readings are better than he ever thought he’d see, especially when they were at their worst about a decade and a half ago.

Being vigilant is also important because he has a family history of these health concerns. His mother died at 73 from complications tied to diabetes.

man_cooking

A time to embrace healthy habits

While now is a difficult time for many — stress and anxiety are up, people’s insecurities and fears over their personal health have increased — for some people like Taub, this new way of life has ironically led to better, healthier behaviors.

Dr. Robert Eckel, the American Diabetes Association president of medicine and science, and an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said Taub’s story isn’t unusual.

With life on pause, he said that “now is a good time to focus” on health.

He added that depending on a person’s individual lifestyle and desires — and assuming they’re not facing too severe of an economic impact from the current health crisis — sheltering at home gives an opportunity to adopt some healthier behaviors, from more routine fitness to better sleep habits.

A big piece of it is reflected in Taub’s experience — eating better food.

“In general, a heart healthy diet is a diabetes healthy diet and cancer healthy and blood pressure healthy diet,” Eckel, a past-president of the American Heart Association, told Healthline.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent science-based consumer advocacy organization, writes that rampant unhealthy diets have something of a domino effect on overall health in the United States.

The organization says that diets that rely on heavily processed meals low on nutritious value contribute to about 678,000 deaths each year as a result of diseases tied to poor nutrition and obesity, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

It should be no surprise then that each of these conditions are highly prevalent in the North America.

Annually, heart disease is the leading cause of death nationwide, resulting in 1 in every 4 deaths, while more than 100 million adults live with diabetes or prediabetes.

Obesity statistics are similarly high, with the condition’s prevalence shooting from 30.5 percent in the year from 1999 to 2000, to 42.4 percent in the 2017–2018 time frame. The prevalence of obesity-related diseases moved from 4.7 percent to 9.2 percent during that time frame.

Eckel said that as the coronavirus puts a pause on day-to-day life, it gives Americans an opportunity to hit the reset button on some of these worrying trends.

He cited both the DASH and Mediterranean diets as fairly accessible healthy eating plans that promote weight reduction, decreased salt intake, increased daily nutritional intake, and lowered blood pressure.

He also cited moderate exercise as a way to maintain healthy behaviors while stuck at home.

This means trying to fit in about 40 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day — this doesn’t mean having fancy or expensive equipment. It could be a brisk walk or using light weights to include some sort of resistance-training workout at home.

Really anything to avoid being in a “predominantly sedentary position,” he explained.

The challenges of making these changes

Of course, all of this can be easier said than done for some people.

The emotional, psychological, and financial toll taken by COVID-19 can make it hard for people to dedicate time to make some of these lifestyle shifts.

Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, told Healthline that the people he treats generally have fallen in two camps during this crisis. One group was already exercising, visiting gyms, and adhering to healthy diets. Anecdotally, he noticed this group actually seemed to “fall off a bit” from their schedules once sheltering at home.

“They haven’t been doing as well in this setting,” Laffin said.

The other group consists of people who weren’t regularly exercising, not making the best dietary choices, but are now changing their routines slightly, finding they have more time to go for a walk or start preparing meals.

“It’s a double-edged sword. I’ve seen people benefit from this time but also some people not benefit as much,” he added.

For those in the second group, does Laffin envision these new healthy habits being maintained over the years once the COVID-19 threat passes?

“I think the most important part is getting into these habits and routines, and sticking with them. People are creatures of habit, so if for a couple of months with more time to exercise and eat healthily, I hope they find they can’t go without the daily routine of eating healthier, of making these choices,” he said.

If they feel better and see that their weight is lower and that their overall health has improved, Laffin added that he hopes these people will see these are necessary behaviors to hold on to.

Maintaining new routines

For those in the first group who are finding it difficult to self-motivate during an uncertain time, Laffin suggested pursuing routines that aren’t intimidating.

Just walking around the block is a good way to add some activity, and taking quick breaks in between working from home to do some light exercise could be helpful.

As for food, one doesn’t have to embrace complicated recipes if they’re used to dining out or grabbing a quick meal at the office cafeteria. He said to make sure you try to make dishes that have 50 to 60 percent fruits and vegetables.

Try to stock up on some healthier items when you do go to the local grocery store, just so you have them on hand and can incorporate them with your meal, even if it’s a side dish to complement what you might naturally gravitate to.

“I think it’s important for everyone to be realistic with themselves, however,” Laffin added. “A lot of people out there will slide back a bit, they will put on some extra pounds, they won’t be as physically active. Understand that this is not a 6-week reality, this is going to be going on for 6, 12, 18 months — now is the time to make these adjustments but also be realistic.”

For Taub’s part, he’s a social person who lives alone and said he will heartily embrace eating out with friends once it’s safe and responsible to do so.

What will he make sure to do moving forward to keep up with his new shelter-in-place healthy behaviors?

“I’m going to be aggressive in restaurants about what I order, I might even call ahead to see what I can get that is salt-free. If they won’t accommodate me, then I won’t go there,” Taub stressed.

“If I’m able to control my blood pressure more, then I have to be more cognizant of my behaviors,” he added. “It’s too easy to depend on medication, as great as it is. I need to be really diligent about it.”

Written by Brian Mastroianni              May 26, 2020              Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell


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Long-Term Social Distancing May Be Traumatic. Here Is What To Expect And What To Do

Passover, Easter and Ramadan are occasions that typically bring families together to pray, reflect and celebrate – fellowship needed, perhaps, now more than ever – will look different this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The loss of those traditions is added to a growing list of losses that North Americans are facing as they endure at least another month of social distancing and with it an extended departure from routines, habits, social circles and normalcy.

The protracted disruption to life as it was, mental health experts say, could bring feelings of anger, depression, anxiety and even grief.

“There is literal grief like losing loved ones,” said Dr. Vaile Wright, the American Psychology Association’s director of clinical research. “But there is a grief of experiences that we are losing right now. There can feel like there is a lot of loss right now, a loss of freedom, a lot of things we took for granted.”

The next few months may take a toll on the nation’s mental health, experts say, but it is possible to mitigate the stress.

North Americans’ collective trauma

Extended isolation and stress from the pandemic can affect everyone differently, said Dr. Dana Garfin, a health psychologist.

It could put strain on families, send children home to abusive situations, make those living alone feel isolated and threaten people’s sense of purpose by keeping them from work, Garfin said.

And those experiencing financial insecurity in the midst of the pandemic have an added stress that is difficult to resolve, said Dr. Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Despite those differences, the experience of staying home together through a pandemic can be considered a collective trauma, said Garfin, who studies collective traumas such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks and earthquakes.

Collective traumas start at some point of impact and then ripple out to loved ones of the afflicted, witnesses to the devastation and people whose lives are disrupted.

In this case, many Americans fall into one or more of those categories. People in quarantine show signs of confusion, depression and anger, Garfin said.

“We necessarily run much of our lives by habit,” said Fischhoff. “We know what we have for breakfast, we know how to prepare the kids for school, and that enables us to get through the day reasonably well.”

But now that many North Americans aren’t waking up and going to school and work, it can be difficult to know how to restructure even the most rote daily habits that won’t be coming back for weeks yet.

What life might look like on the other side of coronavirus

How long the pandemic and the isolation continue will dictate how severe the effects are on people’s mental health, Garfin said.

Prolonged exposure to the traumas of coronavirus can activate the fight or flight response, which over time can cause cardiovascular problems, anxiety, depression and PTSD, Garfin said. And the extended isolation can contribute to fear, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating, said Wright.

For some groups, like health care workers, those in the media and people in newly deemed “essential jobs,” the end result may be guilt, grief and PTSD, said Wright.

But, Wright and Garfin agreed, humans are resilient.

Some may forget everything they just went through and go back to their daily lives when it is all over, Wright said, but many can come out of this with stronger relationships and a better perspective on what is important.

How to get through it

The future is uncertain, but life will be different for at least the next month and that knowledge can be the first step to making this new, temporary reality as good as it can be.

Now that it is clear the change is for more than a couple of weeks, it is important to create a new routine – one that includes showering, getting dressed and maintaining family meals — not treating the time as an extended snow day or spring vacation, Wright said.

There is an opportunity for people to develop new habits around the disruption, which can relieve the stress of feeling like starting from scratch every day, Fischhoff said.

And all three say it is important to use social media to be social, not to feed the anxiety that conflicting coronavirus information on the platform stokes.

They also agree that this experience is difficult, and it is important to acknowledge that and not be too critical of what one could have done before or could be doing now.

“I think that we need to recognize that this is totally unprecedented, and we really are just doing the best we can – and that’s OK,” Wright said. And for people doing the best they can but struggling to work, study or care for their families, virtual mental health resources may be a crucial next step.

And for those who are lonely and isolated, Garfin suggests reframing for a feeling of community within that experience.

“We aren’t in our houses alone, we are doing something for each other for our community,” Garfin said. “It’s a shared effort, something that we are all a part of and something we are all contributing to.”
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s not permanent.”

 

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN       Thu April 9, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
plan

Take A Breath:
How The Simple Act Of Meditative Breathing
Helps Us Cope

A global pandemic causes so much worry, concern and fear. There’s the pressure of suddenly being a homeschooling parent and trying to create structure around newfound chaos in your home.

A lot of us are adjusting to working from home, all while tending to worries about the state of the world. Maybe you fret over the health of aging parents or feel anxious over the ever-changing news cycle.

Psychological stress can damper your overall health, affecting your ability to remain resilient in the face of challenges. It can also thwart a strong immune system, which is needed to keep from getting sick.

“Living through a pandemic can be scary,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the March 18 episode of CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction” podcast.

The good news: Meditation is one tool that can help our immune systems functioning optimally, according to a recent study.

One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is by simply focusing your attention on your breath, according to Harvard Medical School, since it’s a form of beginner level meditation that anyone can do.

Alternative medicine advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra, in Dr. Gupta’s podcast episode titled “Pandemic Panic,” walks us through how to do a breathing meditation to ease our stress, thus calming our minds.

Breathing through the stress of a pandemic

According to Harvard Medical School, breathing meditation requires either sitting comfortably, standing or walking in a setting with minimal distractions. Many people prefer to sit.

If you’re sitting, focus first on your posture: You should sit with your spine erect.

As you become aware of the space you’re in and sit comfortably, observe your breath without manipulating it for a few seconds, Chopra suggests.

Then, slow your breath down by inhaling deeply to the count of six.

Pause for two seconds.

Exhale to the count of four. Then repeat this six-two-four breathing method for two minutes.

“Then, when you’re done with that, bring your awareness into your body and wherever there seems to be any discomfort, just bring the awareness there without manipulating it,” Chopra said. “Awareness by itself heals. Awareness without conceptual intervention restores self-regulation.”

“The goal is really to breathe from your diaphragm,” as opposed to shallow breaths from your chest, said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and director of clinical research and quality at the American Psychological Association.

“And the way to know whether you’re doing that or not, or a trick at least, is to place your hand just below your ribs on your stomach.” When you inhale you should feel your body expanding, then contracting when you inhale.

If the initial peace is interrupted by your thoughts, the meditation isn’t a failure. Though breathing meditations are simple to begin with, they can take practice before you’re able to maintain focus for an extended period of time, Wright said. Just acknowledge the thought and try to let it go.

You don’t have to concentrate on any format, but some people find that adding some sort of mantra or visualization to it helps, Wright said.

“For example, when you’re breathing in, telling yourself [in your head that] you’re breathing in love. When you’re exhaling, telling yourself you’re exhaling anxiety. Or, breathing in positive energy, exhaling negative energy or visualizing negative energy coming out of your mouth and out of your body.”

Chopra starts his day with three or four intentions: “I’m going to maintain a joyful, energetic body today; a loving and compassionate heart today; a reflective and quiet and creative and centered mind today; and lightness of being and laughter today, whatever it takes.”

By doing these intentions, you can start to feel better, he said.

Modern technology offers up apps and smart watches that can help guide you through a meditation if you have trouble staying focused.

“Slow your breath, your thoughts will slow down as well,” Chopra said.

breathe
try this for 2 – 5 minutes

Benefits for your overall health

Breathing meditations can contribute to a state of mindfulness by bringing your focus to one thing and only thing only – your breath, Wright said.

“The goal of that is to draw your attention away from maybe worry thoughts you’re having or sort of the catastrophic thoughts or maybe depressing thoughts about feeling alone,” she added. When you’re focusing, those thoughts can be pushed aside, helping you to control your emotions.

Mindfulness has been found to influence two stress pathways in the brain, altering brain structure and activity in regions that regulate attention and emotion, according to the American Psychological Association.

In a 2015 review of studies on the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), researchers found that people who received this therapy were less likely to respond to stressful situations with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions.

Those participants were also more likely to focus on the present moment and less likely to experience ruminating thoughts.

Breathing meditations can also reduce muscle tension and your heart rate, which are signs of stress, Wright said.

Carrying yourself through a hard time

Breathing meditations are another tool you can add to your coping toolkit, which may also include journaling, baking or virtually connecting with others.

“What’s great about breathing is you can do it anywhere,” Wright said. “If music is your way of relaxing, what happens when you don’t have access to it? You always have access to your breathing, so in that sense [breathing meditations] are really portable and very accessible. We really need a variety of different coping skills in order to get through particularly unprecedented situations like this one.”

Mindfulness may not make everything go away, Wright said, but it can bring you to a “calmer state so that you’re better able to deal with all the stress that’s going on.”

By Kristen Rogers, CNN      Fri March 27, 2020
source: www.cnn.com


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The Neuroscience of Bad Habits and Why It’s Not About Will Power

Why are bad habits so hard to break? What if the bumper sticker “Just Say No!” actually works against us? If willpower were the answer to breaking bad habits then we  decisionswouldn’t have drug addiction or obesity. There’s something going on in our brains where we literally lose the ability for self-control, but all hope isn’t lost.

Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls the phrase “Just Say No!” “magical thinking.”

It appears that dopamine is one of the main chemicals regulating the pleasure center of the brain. At the most basic level, it regulates motivation — it sends signals to receptors in the brain saying, “This feels good!”

Whether you’re a heroin addict and you see an association to heroin, you’re a caffeine addict and you see a cup of coffee, you’re a Smartphone addict and you see another person pick up their phone, or if you’re hungry and you see some good-looking food, your brain rushes with dopamine and that is now caught on brain-scanning machines.

The fascinating thing is that Volkow has found that  the images alone affect the rise of dopamine in our brains. So if we pass a McDonald’s and see the arches, our brain associates that with a tasty hamburger (for some) and shoots up dopamine. That good feeling will unconsciously drive the motivation to go in and get a Big Mac. It’s a conditioned response. The same goes for anything including most likely our relationships to our phones.

A blue button with the word Change on it

What can we do?

It makes sense why more and more addiction centers are integrating mindfulness into their curriculum. Mindfulness practice has been shown to activate the prefrontal cortex and cool down the amygdala. This gives us the ability to widen the space between stimulus and response where choice lies and access possibilities and opportunities we didn’t know were there before. This is crucial when it comes to our addictive behaviors to take a step back, “think through the drink” and recognize the various options that lie before us.

We can learn to step into the pause, notice the sensation of the urge that’s there and as the late Alan Marlatt, Ph.D. said, “surf the urge” as it peaks, crests and falls back down like a wave in the ocean.

One place to start is to just get curious about the pull you feel to whatever you think you’re compulsive with. An easy one besides some of the arguably more destructive habits (drugs, alcohol) is our phones.

Today, be on the lookout for what cues you to check your app. Do you see someone else doing it? Are you waiting somewhere and there’s something uncomfortable about waiting? Is it a certain time of day or place?

Training your brain to recognize this cue can help you get some space from it to ask, “What do I really want to pay attention to right now? What matters?” As we get better at recognizing that space between stimulus and response and making the choices that run alongside our values, like riding a bike, it will start to come more naturally.

Just because our brains have been altered by our compulsive behaviors, doesn’t mean we’re destined to fall into the same habits. With the right skills, community and support we can learn how to break out of routine and into a life worth living.

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. 
 


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8 Things Mentally Healthy People Do Differently

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is importance at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Most times when we hear something, anything, being discussed about mental health, the context is usually negative. For example, we’ll often watch news anchors explain that some violent act was committed by someone known to have “mental health issues.” Less frequently discussed are the positive aspects of mental health – something that we’d like to focus on today. We believe this to be important, as research shows a steady increase in the proliferation of mental health problems.

More specifically, we discuss how mentally healthy people think.

The rationale for this article is to provide a common set of psychological traits in “mentally healthy” people; traits which can then be used as a sort-of “benchmark” for gaining potential insight into our own mental health.

First, three important side notes: (1) nobody is perfectly healthy, neither physically or mentally, (2) this piece is written for entertainment purposes, and (3) should you believe that you suffer from a psychological disorder, it is recommended to seek out help or talk to someone.

HERE ARE EIGHT THINGS MENTALLY HEALTHY PEOPLE DO DIFFERENTLY:

1. THEY HAVE A POSITIVE SOCIAL CIRCLE

Steven Joyal, M.D., and vice president of scientific affairs and medical development at a non-profit mental health research institute, states: “The idea that social interaction is important to mental and physical health has been hinted at and studied for years.”

Per a meta-study conducted at Brigham Young University, which analyzed 148 studies of over 300,000 subjects, a positive social circle has a direct effect on mortality. Researchers concluded that this positive correlation is a direct reflection on the intangible benefits of an active social circle – namely, a circle that counteracts stress through comfort and companionship.

2. THEY ARE PROACTIVE, RATHER THAN REACTIVE

The inclination to consistently improve oneself, as opposed to simply reacting to environmental stimuli, is directly connected to mental health. Having a proactive mindset displays self-awareness and a willingness to work towards a long-term goal.

In short, a proactive mindset manifests into a positive mind state, while a reactive mindset demonstrates a lack of self-control – a trait that often evolves into problems with mental health.

3. THEY CARE FOR THEIR BODY

Understanding that one’s body is directly connected to one’s mind is a vital piece of knowledge. A physically active lifestyle is an ubiquitous tendency among those with a healthy state of mind.

Combining a physically active lifestyle with healthy dietary habits is a clear indication that one is mentally healthy. Those that lack either are more prone to mental health issues.

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4. THEY POSSESS GOOD EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is simply the ability to understand emotions and their subsequent impacts on mind and body. Capably interpreting what’s going on inside your mind and body subsequently enables you to do something about them.

5. THEY ARE SELF-GUIDED AND PRODUCTIVE

Being able to guide yourself in a positive way is a surefire sign of mental health. People with mental health problems are often a “victim” of their circumstances. In contrast, mentally healthy people are able to understand their situation and make something positive happen.

If you’re setting goals and making them part of your daily life, you are likely both disciplined and mentally-healthy. Giving way to instant gratification and/or always feeling lethargic may indicate a problem.

6. THEY’RE IN CONTROL OF THEIR BEHAVIOR

The rare ability to resist most temptations and negative impulses is a sign of mental health. Why? Because to do so requires self-knowledge, resilience, and willpower; three attributes commonly absent within those with a mental health problem.

Furthermore, you’re able to consistently adhere to a positive routine. This is important, as a positive routine is often an indication of a positive state of mind.

7. THEY ACCEPT THEMSELVES FOR WHO THEY ARE

Sadly, many people with a negative self-image often succumb to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Having a positive (not necessarily a “high”) sense of self-worth often indicates a healthy state of mind.

It’s important to understand that we all have things we wish to improve upon. The difference lies in the reaction to such desires. Mentally healthy people will devise a plan, whilst those not so healthy will remain in a static state of mind.

Which leads us to the final item on this list…

8. THEY HAVE EXCELLENT SELF-REALIZATION SKILLS

The current “situation,” whether good or bad, great or terrible, is more astutely interpreted in those with a healthy state of mind. It’s not altogether more uncommon for a mentally healthy person to find themselves in a bad scenario; they just recognize it sooner and take the appropriate, more productive actions.

Those in a negative state of mind – be it “mentally ill” or whatever – are less likely to realize the adverse situation and do something about it.

SOURCES:
CASSERLY, M. (2010, AUGUST 24). FRIENDS WITH HEALTH BENEFITS. RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 06, 2017, FROM HTTP://WWW.FORBES.COM/2010/08/24/HEALTH-RELATIONSHIPS-LONGEVITY-FORBES-WOMAN-WELL-BEING-SOCIAL-ISOLATION.HTML
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?. (N.D.). RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 06, 2017, FROM HTTPS://WWW.MENTALHEALTH.GOV/BASICS/WHAT-IS-MENTAL-HEALTH/


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Get Out of Your Comfort Zone, Now

By: Jordyn Cormier     June 5, 2016

We all strive for comfort constantly: softer chairs, bigger cars, more easily prepared meals. But our endless quest for comfort is harmful. Over time, the fortress of comfort we build around ourselves begins to strangle our happiness.

When we fall into the security of comfort—be it a cushy job, an intimate relationship or a steady routine—we gradually begin to lose that vibrancy, that creative spark that drives us to seek out new experiences. But life, at its core, is about experience and energy. It is what drives us. Would you rather spend your adventure on this planet safely watching a fancy television or would you rather do something memorable and amazing that makes you a little uneasy?

Stop claiming you’re too busy.

Experience is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer. But, so many of us shy away from them out of fear or uncertainty. We are afraid to leave the pink, fuzzy walls of our comfort fortress.

Work and ‘busyness’ are too often utilized as a veil to protect us from anything new and uncomfortable. In fact, each of us almost certainly has something we have wanted to do, only to keep putting off until the perpetual tomorrow because we are too busy right now. Busyness is an excuse to stall your hopes and dreams. Your schedule should not control you. You control your life.

Maybe you want to take dance classes, but feel too out of shape for an open class. Perhaps you want to go back to school, but feel too old. Or, you want to travel to Patagonia and fly fish for a month… Guess what, you’re not too busy, old or out of shape for anything. And once you push past the fear of novel discomfort, you’ll begin to enjoy yourself and thrive.

comfort-is-the-enemy-of-achievement

Embrace discomfort.   

Speaking of the concept of comfort, I write this from inside a crunchy, frost-glazed tent, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains at around 11,000 feet. This is my latest location on my solo cross country road trip. Considering comfort, one thing is for certain—I am currently, in every sense of the word, not comfortable. I am shivering much more than I’d prefer (a classic form of physical discomfort, although not necessarily what we are discussing here. It’s nothing some hot black coffee won’t fix in the morning).

More importantly, this adventure fills me with discomfort on a very regular basis. Every new city I visit fills me with a sense of uncertainty as I scramble to find lodging and friendly faces. The start of every new experience makes me question every decision I’ve made. Every time a mass of clutter spills out of my hatchback makes me miss the days when I had a closet and wasn’t so dependent on my car for survival.

But, even now, beneath my flimsy sleeping bag and six layers of wool and down, breath coalescing into tiny clouds around me, I feel an empowering sense of fulfillment. Yes, I long for a warm bed and a good night of sleep. But, I do not long for the monotony of routine. I’ve met incredible people, seen breathtaking landscapes and done things by myself I never thought I would have the courage to do in a zillion years. Being a little cold and a little uneasy—in other words, embracing discomfort—is a small price to pay for the pure joy of living life.

Take the plunge. 

I am absolutely not saying you have to go pitch a tent in the mountains, strategically set up between plops of frozen Grizzly bear poop. That is not for everyone. But, it is important to allow yourself to drift outside of your standard comfort zone so that you can continue to grow as an authentic human being.

Stop hiding behind your busyness and take time to think about what you want out of life. A lot of us drift through our days on autopilot, which is much easier than pushing yourself and confronting your insecurities. I urge you, push your perceived boundaries. Go do that thing you’ve always wanted to do… today! Go sign up for a month of dance classes! Go make time in your schedule for that trip you want to take! Go see that new movie even though you have no one to go with! You’ll walk away with a more enlightened perception of your life, and, most importantly, a sense of empowerment and joy.

The best experiences in life make us uncomfortable at first. But, when that discomfort subsides, that is when true, passionate living begins.