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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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7 Habits That Will Drastically Improve Your Energy Levels

Feeling tired or hitting an afternoon slump? These simple lifestyle shifts can make a big difference.

Waking up already feeling worn out? Unable to overcome the afternoon slump? These may be signs that various lifestyle factors are taking a toll on your energy levels, leading to brain fog and straight-up exhaustion.

When constantly on the go, it may be difficult to find ways to recharge. However, Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explained that more often than not, low energy levels can be remedied by adopting simple changes to your daily routine.

These are seven research-backed habits to boost your energy, according to experts:

Identify healthy ways to cope with stress.

Unsurprisingly, emotional stress can leave you feeling less lively.

“Stress has a huge impact on your physical well-being. If you are feeling elevated levels of stress, it can absolutely contribute to low energy,” Dr. Nina Vasan, chief medical officer at mental wellness app Real, told HuffPost.

So, how can you combat unchecked stress to boost your energy levels? Vasan explained that it’s crucial to “find ways to integrate meditation or mindfulness into your daily life,” even for just five minutes each day. Experts also say that identifying coping skills that work for you — such as journaling or reading something that brings you joy — can help you destress and feel more energetic.

Limit the amount of caffeine you consume.

When you’re feeling tired, it may be tempting to make a third or fourth cup of coffee later in the day to perk back up. However, drinking too much caffeine can have a paradoxical effect, leaving you lethargic.

“If you’re consuming large amounts of caffeinated beverages throughout the day, it is probably going to affect your sleep pattern. This can then affect your energy levels,” Tallia said.

It’s important to note that suddenly cutting back on caffeinated beverages can also leave you feeling tired at first. As Tallia explained, “the body gets used to caffeine as a stimulant, and when it’s not present, you can experience an energy slump.”

Most experts suggest gradually reducing the amount of caffeine in your diet until you find what works best for you — and not reaching for that extra cup of Joe even when you’re feeling tempted.

Caffeine can only help you stay alert to a point — then it starts to have a negative effect.

Practice good sleep hygiene and establish a routine.

It goes without explaining that catching enough Zzzs is key to boosting your energy throughout the day. However, your energy levels are not just impacted by the amount of sleep you get each night, but by the quality of that sleep.

Practicing good sleep hygiene can help you snooze more soundly, and in turn give you more pep in your step the following day. Sleep hygiene involves adopting habits such as developing a regular bedtime routine and dimming the lights at night. What’s more, Tallia said it’s important to clear your mind by doing nighttime activities that you find relaxing.

Even when practicing good sleep hygiene, you may find you’re waking up feeling fatigued. Raelene Brooks, the dean of the College of Nursing at University of Phoenix, said that could point to a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, don’t hesitate to pay your physician a visit.

Move your body throughout the day.

Try to incorporate exercise into your day — even just a small amount. Research has shown that daily exercise and movement are essential to boosting energy levels. You don’t have to be lifting weights or running five miles a day to glean the energizing benefits of exercise.

“Even low-impact movement is shown to increase your oxygen flow and hormone levels, which give you a boost of energy,” Vasan explained. “It is the No. 1 tip I recommend to anyone feeling fatigued.”

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Drink more water.

Dehydration is a common cause of low energy. According to Brooks, the science behind this is quite straightforward: “Our red blood cells carry oxygen. Ideally, a plump and round red blood cell allows for a full oxygen-carrying capacity,” she said. “When we are dehydrated, the red blood shrinks and this decreases the capacity for the cell to carry a full load of oxygen. Low oxygen levels are manifested by fatigue, irritability and restlessness.”

If you struggle with being mindful of your water intake, consider trying hacks such as investing in a smart water bottle to ensure you’re drinking enough H2O every day.

Dehydration can contribute to fatigue. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water each day.

Be mindful of your screen time during the evening hours, and also during the day.

It almost goes without saying that excessive screen time at night can mess with your natural sleep cycle and energy the following day. As Vasan explained, “spending too much time on your phone, computer or watching your TV can cause fatigue by disrupting the neurotransmitters that are essential for sleep and restoration.”

However, the time you spend looking at your phone or computer during the day can also have a harmful impact on your energy levels. Too much screen time can lead to eye fatigue, which may trigger headaches and make it more difficult to concentrate.

We live in a digital world, so spending extensive time looking at a screen is unavoidable for most people. Making the “20-20-20 rule” a habit is a step towards tackling tiredness. According to Harvard Business Review, “when you’re working on a laptop, take a break every 20 minutes. Look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a chance to relax.”

Avoid skipping meals.

If you ever skipped breakfast or worked right through your lunch break, you probably noticed you feel groggier than usual. While it’s totally normal to miss a meal, making a goal to regularly eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks throughout the day can increase your energy levels.

“Your brain needs nutrition to really function appropriately,” Tallia said. “A lot of people skip meals, and their blood sugar levels are going up and down all through the day.”

Moreover, Tallia said to steer clear of fad diets that encourage people to majorly cut back on caloric intake or to eliminate essential nutrient groups like carbohydrates. This can deprive you of energy.

While it’s not uncommon to wake up feeling low on energy every once and a while, chronic fatigue could point to an underlying health issue.

“If you are eating well, getting enough sleep, integrating movement and exercise into your daily life but still feel tired for more than two weeks, you should consider reaching out to a medical professional,” Vasan said, explaining that a consistent drop in energy “can be an indicator of a host of mental and physical health issues ranging from fairly benign to severe.”

Ultimately, boosting your energy often comes down to taking inventory of different activities and current habits that could be draining you. Adopting just a few simple changes to your daily routine could be key to beating the fatigue once and for all.

Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro    Nov 1, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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The 3 Pillars Of Good Mental Health

These are three factors that you can change.

Exercise, quality sleep and eating raw fruits and vegetables are the three pillars of good mental health, a study suggests.

Among the 1,100 young adults who were surveyed for the research, those who slept well, did more exercise and ate better were more likely to be flourishing.

Out of these, quality sleep was most strongly linked to better mental health, followed by exercise and then diet.

The finding that sleep quality rather quantity was so important was surprising, said Ms Shay-Ruby Wickham, the study’s first author:

“This is surprising because sleep recommendations predominantly focus on quantity rather than quality.

While we did see that both too little sleep — less than eight hours — and too much sleep — more than 12 hours — were associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower well-being, sleep quality significantly outranked sleep quantity in predicting mental health and well-being.

This suggests that sleep quality should be promoted alongside sleep quantity as tools for improving mental health and well-being within young adults.”

The study’s results showed that those who slept an average of 8 hours had the highest mental well-being.

Those sleeping almost 10 hours, though, had the lowest chance of developing depressive symptoms.

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People in the study were in their early 20s, however, and generally we require less sleep with age.

Having too much sleep is generally considered almost as bad as having too little.

Diet also played an important role in mental health.

Those who ate 5 servings of raw fruit and vegetables per day had the highest mental-wellbeing and those who ate less than 2 servings each day had the worst.

Ms Wickham said:

“Sleep, physical activity, and a healthy diet can be thought of as three pillars of health, which could contribute to promoting optimal well-being among young adults, a population where the prevalence of mental disorders is high and well-being is suboptimal.”

Dr Tamlin Conner, study co-author, warned that the findings were correlational:

“We didn’t manipulate sleep, activity, or diet to test their changes on mental health and well-being.

Other research has done that and has found positive benefits.

Our research suggests that a ‘whole health’ intervention prioritising sleep, exercise, and fruit and vegetable intake together, could be the next logical step in this research.”

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.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Wickham et al., 2020).

September 30, 2022

source: PsyBlog


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This Sleep Pattern Increases Heart Disease Risk 54% 

People who ignore this risk factor increase their odds of developing heart disease or stroke.

Less than seven, or more than eight hours of sleep can cause arterial stiffness leading to heart disease or stroke.

If you like to stay up late and have a drink or check your emails or watch TV and sleep until mid-morning, remember the quantity of sleep is important for your heart health.

The incidence of arterial stiffness is much lower in people who sleep seven or eight hours a night compared to those who sleep for shorter or longer hours, a study has found.

Consequently, people who sleep more than eight hours or less than seven hours are at higher risk of heart disease or stroke.

A research team measured 1,752 adults’ sleep patterns in Greece and based on duration of sleep they were divided into four groups.

The first was ‘normal’ group meaning their sleep was seven or eight hours per night, the second was the ‘short’ group meaning they slept six to seven hours nightly, the third one ‘very short’ meaning they had less than six hours sleep, and the last group ‘long’ as they had more than eight hours sleep nightly.

The results showed that participants who had more than eight hours a night were at a 39 percent higher risk of plaque build up inside the arteries and for those who slept less than six hours the odds increased to 54 percent.

This shows that duration of sleep is as important as exercise and diet for cardiovascular health.

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Dr Evangelos Oikonomou, the study’s lead author, said:

“The message, based on our findings, is ‘sleep well, but not too well.’

Getting too little sleep appears bad for your health but too much seems to be harmful as well.

Unlike other heart disease risk factors such as age or genetics, sleep habits can be adjusted, and even after taking into consideration the impact of established risk factors for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases — for example age, gender, obesity, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure and even a history of coronary artery disease — both short and long sleeping duration may act as additional risk factors.”

Plaque build-up causes the arterial walls to thicken and narrow so the blood flow in the brain and the body will decrease leading to cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Dr Oikonomou, said:

“We don’t fully understand the relationship between sleep and cardiovascular health.

It could be that sympathetic nervous system withdrawal or a slowing [of this system] that occurs during sleep may act as a recovery phase for [usual] vascular and cardiac strain.

Moreover, short sleep duration may be associated with increased cardiovascular risk factors — for example, unhealthy diet, stress, being overweight or greater alcohol consumption — whereas longer sleep duration may be associated with a less active lifestyle pattern and lower physical activity.”

How much sleep we need is related to different factors such as age.

The guidelines for adults are mostly seven to nine hours sleep a night, however, one in three American adults gets less than six hours sleep.

Studies have shown that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, mental health problem, and early death.

Experts say a regular six to eight hours a night is spot-on.

Dr Oikonomou, said:

“It seems that this amount of sleep may act as an additive cardioprotective factor among people living in modern western societies, and there can be other health benefits to getting sufficient and quality sleep.”

The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together with World Congress of Cardiology, March 2020.

Mina Dean September 1, 2022

source: PsyBlog


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6 Weird Ways To Trick Your Mind Into Sleep That Actually Work

Got insomnia? Sleep psychologists share a few unconventional tips that will help you get those Zzzs.

When it comes to falling asleep, the single most effective thing you can do is calm your mind.

Sure, that might be easier said than done — especially when it’s the middle of the night and you’re desperately waiting to fall asleep. But there are several not-so-obvious ways to quiet your thoughts and prep the brain and body for sleep.

Instead of taking a hot bath, pouring yourself a night cap or squeezing in a workout before bedtime, here are a few expert-backed ways to dupe your mind into sleep:

Don’t sleep

One of the most effective ways to trick yourself into falling asleep is to, well, try not to sleep. Trying too hard to sleep never works, and all that worry and anxiety about falling asleep is what actually keeps so many people up at night, said Deirdre Conroy, a sleep psychologist and the clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at the University of Michigan Health Sleep Disorders Centers.

By doing the opposite and forcing yourself to lie in bed and stay awake all night — a phenomenon called paradoxical intention — you’ll unintentionally doze off at some point. “In your mind, you’re actually trying to stay up but sleep will eventually kick in,” Conroy said.

Focus on your mornings

The key to getting good sleep isn’t all about what you do, and don’t do, at night. In fact, your morning routine can have an even bigger impact on your sleep. According to Cathy Goldstein, a sleep neurologist at University of Michigan Health Sleep Disorders Centers, good sleep starts in the morning.

“Set your alarm and get light first thing — this doesn’t just cue your body when wake time is, but also when sleep onset should occur,” Goldstein said. Waking up when your alarm goes off, at the same time each day, and exposing yourself to daylight sets your internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep at bedtime.

Let yourself worry

Conroy said carving out time to worry earlier in the day can help you fall asleep at bedtime. Instead of dismissing your worries altogether, if you spend time worrying about things a few hours before bed — not right at bedtime — you can sleep better at night.

A quick tip: Take 15 minutes to jot down those concerns in a journal, so you can get them out on paper and leave them there. “That actually can decrease the amount of worry that happens at bedtime,” Conroy said.

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Think about nature

Jeffrey Durmer, a board-certified sleep medicine physician and sleep coach to the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team, said the sounds and darkness of nature are natural ingredients for inducing sleep. After all, nature is known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, reduce hard rate, and decrease muscle tension.

To get to sleep, Durmer recommended thinking about nature — like the last time you slept in a remote cabin or laid out under the stars. This can even be as simple as starting a fire, lighting a candle or spending “time on a porch, patio, or deck to allow darkness and quiet to reverberate in your mind, rather than light and noise,” Durmer said.

Focus on the sound of your breath

Slow, deep belly breathing — like the 4-7-8 method in which you inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds and exhale for eight seconds ― is known to increase relaxation and bring on sleep.

Furthermore, simply focusing on your breath can take the mind off other concerns and worries and bring you to the present moment. “Taking your focus away from the environment and placing it on something entirely in your control (the breath) helps the mind to settle and become calm,” Durmer said.

Exhaust your mind, not your body

There’s a common misconception that exercising at night can help you sleep easier. But while working out tires your body out, it doesn’t necessarily exhaust your mind.

“After a marathon, your body might be tired but that doesn’t mean your mind will be ready for sleep,” Conroy said. Note: Regular exercise improves sleep, in general, but exercising in order to fall asleep won’t do you much good.

Instead of working out to facilitate sleep, Conroy recommended engaging in activities that can tire you out mentally. “We are social people, our brains love to learn and so if you’re not engaging with the world in the day, it may affect your sleep,” Conroy said.

Read a book, do puzzles — have something that you are really mentally engaged in. “Otherwise, there is no difference between the day and the night for some people,” Conroy said.

Julia Ries          Jun 6, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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Which Foods Boost the Immune System?

Can certain foods boost the immune system? We look at what to eat to prevent illnesses and stay well

Can foods boost the immune system? If this thought has ever crossed your mind, you’re not alone. When it comes to preventing infections, we roughly know the drill. Wash your hands thoroughly. Sanitize surfaces. Stay home if you’re not feeling well. But many of us remain unsure as to what to eat to prevent our bodies from constantly getting ill.

It’s easy to fall prey to marketing gimmicks deployed by food brands. After all, it’s comforting to think that there is a single superfood or supplement out there that can supercharge our immunity and solve all of our health problems. But in reality, it’s way more complicated than that.

It’s definitely true that certain vitamins can provide a boost to our immune system. But at the same time, our bodies are complex machines with sophisticated needs. Sticking to a healthy, balanced diet may be much more beneficial to our health than popping vitamin supplements. So if you’re interested to know whether foods can actually boost the immune system, keep reading. Here, we’ll discuss what and how to eat in order to keep yourself fit and healthy.

WHICH FOODS BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

Fruits

Fruits are one of the most nutrient-dense food groups. Packed with vitamins, minerals and many different biologically active compounds, they can provide a great boost to your immune defenses. Every type of fruit has something to offer your health and wellbeing. To get the most benefit, make sure to include a whole rainbow of plants in your diet.

Having said this, certain fruits may have stronger immunoprotective properties than others. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and limes, are a perfect example of foods that can boost the immune system. They’re widely known to be one of the best sources of vitamin C, a nutrient routinely used to treat viral and bacterial infections. But that’s not the only compound that makes them so effective. Citrus fruits are also rich in flavonoids, particularly hesperidin. Hesperidin is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and respiratory viruses. According to an article in Frontiers of Immunology, regular consumption of citrus fruit juices can increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells and decrease the levels of inflammatory markers in the body.

Another family of fruit that’s been shown to promote a healthier immune system is berries. Multiple studies have shown that berries contain antioxidant, antimutagenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties.

Vegetables

If you want to boost your immune system, one of the best ways is to include more vegetables in your diet. Similarly to fruits, this food group provides a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They’re also a great source of fiber and prebiotics – compounds that feed the good bacteria living in our gut. And keeping our gut health in check will in turn have a beneficial impact on our immune responses. To maximize your chances of staying free from infection, include many different types of vegetables in your diet.

Red bell and chili peppers are a great source of vitamin C, almost on par with citrus fruits. They also contain an alkaloid called capsaicin. According to a review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, capsaicin possesses strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and as such, has the potential clinical value for pain relief, cancer prevention and weight loss.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, can also contribute to a stronger immune system. They contain high levels of vitamin C and E, as well as compounds called glucosinolates. As described in the Molecules journal, glucosinolates have been shown to be protective against many different types of cancer, including breast, brain, blood, bone, colon, gastric, liver, lung, oral, pancreatic and prostate.

Broccoli is another great example of a food that can boost your immune system. Apart from containing many vitamins, polyphenols and glucosinolates, it’s also a great source of substances called sulforaphane and quercetin. According to a review published in Phytochemistry Reviews, sulforaphane is highly involved in detoxification and neutralization of chemical carcinogens and free radicals. Quercetin also displays powerful antioxidant, anti-allergic and antiviral properties.

Special attention should also be given to green leafy vegetables, such as kale, lettuce and spinach. Spinach is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables. Multiple studies have demonstrated its antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, and cholesterol-lowering abilities. It provides a solid dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including a carotenoid called lutein. As suggested in a review in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal, lutein has been shown to stimulate the production of antibodies and fight bacterial infections.

Mushrooms

There’s been a growing interest in the immune-strengthening properties of mushrooms. This food group provides a good deal of selenium and B vitamins, both of which have an important role in our immune health. Furthermore, mushrooms contain a range of highly specific immunomodulatory and anti-cancer proteins, as described in the Journal of Autoimmunity.

Many types of mushrooms are beneficial to our health, but recently the attention has been directed particularly at shiitake mushrooms. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, regular consumption of shiitake significantly improves white blood cell and antibody production in the body.

Fermented foods

Fermented food and drink has a long history. They were among the first processed food products consumed by humans – and for many good reasons. The fermentation process improves the shelf life, safety and flavor of foods like yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi. It also enhances their nutritional properties.

Many fermented foods contain strains of beneficial live bacteria, often referred to as probiotics. Probiotics can stimulate immune system function through enhancing natural killer cell toxicity, regulating the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and increasing white blood cell count, according to a study in the Food Control journal.

Seafood

When it comes to foods that boost the immune system, seafood may not be the first thing to cross your mind. But this food group has a lot to offer. Oily fish, for example, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, tryptophan and polyamines. According to a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, regular fish consumption can lead to better gut health and a reduced risk of developing inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Shellfish – including shrimp, lobsters, oysters, mussels, scallops, clams, crabs, krill and snails – also contain significant quantities of immune-stimulating bioactive peptides, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In fact, oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, which is linked to immune health.

Spices and condiments are great for increasing the flavor of dishes, but that’s not the only thing they’re useful for.

Garlic is a great example of a food that can boost the immune system. According to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition, garlic appears to stimulate the production and regulate the functioning of white blood cells, cytokines and immunoglobulins. Regular consumption can contribute to the treatment and prevention of respiratory infections, gastric ulcer, and even cancer.

Garlic

Ginger is another example. According to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, ginger has a strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anticancer potential.

What’s more, black pepper may also be able to boost the immune system. Due to its antibacterial properties, it’s long been used as a food preservative. It contains a compound called piperine, which according to a review published in the Phytotherapy Research journal, displays numerous health benefits.

In the last several years, researchers have also been extensively studying the immunomodulatory properties of turmeric. Recent studies have demonstrated that curcumin – the main active ingredient of turmeric – shows antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-regulatory properties and can reduce the risk of several types of cancers.

HOW TO INTEGRATE IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS INTO A BALANCED DIET

Many foods have the ability to boost the immune system, but how can you make sure you’re including them in your diet?

Firstly, make sure to focus on eating wholefoods and cooking from scratch. Also, try to avoid highly processed foods – items such as packaged bread, microwave meals and breakfast cereals may appear healthy, but they tend to be largely devoid of immune-supporting nutrients. If you feel peckish, try to snack on citrus fruit and berries. When it comes to larger meals, try to add a solid portion of vegetables, mushrooms, fish, shellfish and fermented foods to your plate. Experiment with spices and condiments too.

It’s also good to make sure that your cooking processes don’t destroy immune-boosting nutrients. For example, fruits and vegetables are sensitive to heat, so don’t overcook them. Instead, stick to steaming and gentle processing. According to an article published in Food Science and Biotechnology, prolonged boiling, frying and baking may result in reduced levels of vitamin C, A, D, E and K, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. In fact, broccoli may lose up to 50% or more of its vitamin C when boiled.

If you’re not a fan of the taste of turmeric or mushrooms, consider dietary supplements. Many brands offer good quality extracts made from immune-boosting foods. It’s also relatively easy to top up on probiotics in the form of tablets or capsules – for best results, look for quality products with multiple different bacteria strains. If you are thinking of changing your supplement routine, however, it’s best to consult your doctor first.

OTHER WAYS TO BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Increase your physical activity levels

There’s no doubt that being more active is one of the best things you can do for your physical health and mental wellbeing. It’s also a great way to boost your immune system. According to an article published in the Nutrition journal, exercise intensity and duration are closely linked to the functioning of multiple immune system components.

Researchers from the Sports Medicine journal also pulled together the results of multiple studies and concluded that higher levels of habitual physical activity is associated with a 31% lower risk of contracting an infectious disease and a 37% reduced risk of dying from it.

Prioritize quality sleep

Maintaining good sleep hygiene can make a huge difference to your quality of life. But getting enough sleep is also an important factor in immunity. A good snooze helps to balance the levels of hormones and cytokines that are responsible for regulating the inflammatory responses in the body, as described by a study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Some animal studies have also shown that interactions between immune signaling molecules and brain neurochemicals increase significantly during infection, indicating that we tend to sleep differently when we are sick. Researchers suggested that during infection, these sleep alterations help our body to recover faster.

Keep your stress levels under control

Short bouts of stress can help us to survive dangerous situations. But when that stress becomes chronic, it can have a serious impact on our physical health.

In an article published in the Brain and Behavior journal, researchers speculate that chronic stress severely disrupts immune system signaling and increases the levels of inflammation in the body. There’s also a growing body of evidence to suggest that stress-reducing interventions have a direct impact on our susceptibility to infections. For example, multiple studies have shown that engaging in mindfulness meditation may result in decreased markers of inflammation and improved immune signaling.

By Anna Gora

www.livescience.com


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9 Simple Ways To Be Happy Every Day

Cloud 9 isn’t as far out of out of reach as you might think. We asked the experts for simple strategies to wake up with a smile each and every day.

Sure, life is filled with ups and downs. Who doesn’t feel sad, anxious or a little bit lost every now and then? But these feelings don’t define us—and they don’t define our year, our week or even our day. The ability to change our thoughts, moods and, in effect, lives lies in the power of positive thinking, so we consulted the pros about what we can do from day to day to turn that proverbial frown upside down and discover greater happiness within.

1. Take frequent breaks.

Though easy access to smartphones and com­puters means we can solve most conundrums with the touch of a but­ton, many apps are highly addictive and take time away from the things that really matter, such as family, friends and com­plex problem-solving that leads to personal growth. “These days, tech is in charge of us; we’re not in charge of it,” says leadership coach Ellen Petry Leanse, author of The Happiness Hack. To break the cycle, take a tech time­out at the start of every day and during social inter­actions.

2. Interrupt adverse thought patterns. 

“Negative thinking creates negative feelings,” says California-based corporate-culture consultant Larry Senn, author of The Mood Elevator. “And grateful thinking creates grateful feelings. If you can change your thoughts, you can change your life.” One easy tactic for transforming your mindset is to interrupt it. If you notice you’re bombarded by stressful thoughts, go for a walk, help someone with a problem or play with your pet and see if you feel your mood shift.

3. Stay curious. 

When someone cuts you off during rush hour or a coworker argues with you during a presentation, it can suddenly seem like the world is out to get you. But feeling affronted and judgmental is a choice—and you can pick a different attitude. “Everybody is doing what makes sense to them based on their own think­ing,” says Senn. “We don’t have to agree with it, but we can decide not to take it personally.” Instead, choose to be curious about the thought processes and circumstances that lead to a person’s actions, and while you’re at it, consider the underlying reasons for your reactions.

happiness

4. Build deeper in-person connections. 

“The majority of the people I interact with in my work as a teacher and a coach say that the thing they want most is a sense of deeper connection,” says Leanse, who’s an instructor at California’s Stanford University. “They say things like, ‘I want to find my tribe’ or ‘I want to be with people I understand and who understand me.’ ” Building those connections is easier than you think. “It can be as simple as trying to engage with others by being curious about them and asking questions to under­stand more.” Try to follow this simple rule: Listen more than you talk.

5. Take care of your body.  

It’s tough to have a positive mindset if you’re running on little sleep, no exercise and a steady diet of burgers and chocolate bars. “We know that when people get run down physically, they catch colds more easily,” says Senn. “When you get run down physically, you also catch moods more easily.” By ensuring that you maintain a healthy diet, engage in vigorous exercise and get adequate sleep, you’ll build resilience to life’s hardships—and you’ll probably feel better about yourself overall, which is another key component of positive thinking.

6. Make time for meditation. 

Spending quiet time focusing on breathing or completing guided meditations is one way to train your reactive mentality—the one that jumps to conclusions and is quick to react—to pause before acting and can promote greater emotional intelligence and a profound sense of calm. “It’s like weight lifting for the mind,” says Leanse. But if setting aside a spec­ific chunk of time seems impossible right now, simply try to be more mindful in your day-to-day life. “Find moments to be reflective and pay attention to the ‘now’ as you navi­gate everyday tasks,” says Leanse. For instance, when you wash the dishes, focus on the temperature of the water, the smell of the soap and the feel of each item in your hands.

7. Practice gratitude.

According to Senn—and a whole host of researchers—cultivating a perspective of gratitude is one of the best ways to tap into a happier life. To do so, keep a gratitude journal, take a few minutes each day to think of three things you’re grateful for or compliment other people to show appreciation. “If you want to be happier, forget the myth that achievements or acquisitions bring happiness,” says Senn. “Instead, focus on activities that will nourish gratitude for the blessings you’ve already been granted.”

8. Challenge yourself.

Guilty pleasures like watching TV or checking social media reward our brains with quick spikes of dopamine, but they don’t offer a lasting sense of satisfaction in the same way that “completing projects, being creative, learning, working on long-term goals or doing routine tasks like weeding the garden will,” says Leanse. That’s not to say we should never enjoy a mindless distraction, but completing “deep work”—the things that actually matter to us as individuals—will provide far more happiness in the long run.

9. Delay reactions.

You will have hard days. That’s a given in life. But the occasional bad day or mood can’t hurt you if you press pause on rash actions (think yelling at a loved one or sending a snooty email). “Your thinking is unreliable in the lower mood states,” says Senn, meaning that you may not be able to think clearly if you’re anxious, angry, impatient or sad. “Don’t trust your feelings during lower mood states. Instead of acting on unreliable thinking, delay important conversations and decisions.”

BY: ANDREA KARR

source: www.canadianliving.com


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10 Ways to Ease Stress

Stress refers to your body’s reaction to challenges and demands. Stress can be positive or negative and there are healthy ways to deal with it. Sleeping well is important in stress management.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to a challenge or demand. Everyone experiences stress, which can be triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to major changes like a divorce or job loss. The stress response includes physical components such an elevated heart rate and blood pressure, thoughts and personal beliefs about the stressful event, and emotions, including fear and anger. Although we often think of it as being negative, stress can also come from positive changes in your life, like getting a promotion at work or having a new baby.

How can we handle stress in healthy ways?

Stress serves an important purpose—it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties (for example, anxiety and depression) or increased physical health problems. A large body of research suggests that increased stress levels interfere with your ability to deal with physical illness. While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover.

  • Eat and drink to optimize your health. Some people try to reduce stress by drinking alcohol or eating too much. These actions may seem to help in the moment, but actually may add to stress in the long run. Caffeine also can compound the effects of stress. Consuming a healthy, balanced diet can help to combat stress.
  • Exercise regularly. In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise has been shown to be a powerful stress reliever. Consider non-competitive aerobic exercise, strengthening with weights, or movement activities like yoga or Tai Chi, and set reasonable goals for yourself. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins—natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Stop using tobacco and nicotine products. People who use nicotine often refer to it as a stress reliever. However, nicotine actually places more stress on the body by increasing physical arousal and reducing blood flow and breathing.
  • Study and practice relaxation techniques. Taking the time to relax every day helps to manage stress and to protect the body from the effects of stress. You can choose from a variety of techniques, such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. There are many online and smart phone apps that provide guidance on these techniques; although some entail purchase costs, many are available free of charge.
  • Reduce triggers of stress. If you are like most people, your life may be filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. You can free up time by practicing time-management skills like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving time to take care of yourself.
  • Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is. Use your values when choosing your activities.
  • Assert yourself. It’s okay to say “No” to demands on your time and energy that will place too much stress on you. You don’t have always have to meet the expectations of others.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s okay—and healthy—to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything all at once. Be mindful of the things you can control and work on accepting the things that you can’t control.
  • Sell yourself to yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.

There are several other methods you can use to relax or reduce stress, including:

  • Deep breathing exercises.
  • Meditation.
  • Mindfulness meditation.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Mental imagery relaxation.
  • Relaxation to music.
  • Biofeedback (explained below).
  • Counseling, to help you recognize and release stress.

Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these techniques or other suggestions.

Managing-Stress

Biofeedback

Biofeedback helps a person learn stress reduction skills by providing information about muscle tension, heart rate, and other vital signs as a person attempts to relax. It is used to gain control over certain bodily functions that cause tension and physical pain.

Biofeedback can be used to help you learn how your body responds in stressful situations, and how to cope better. If a headache, such as a migraine, begins slowly, many people can use biofeedback to stop the attack before it becomes full- blown.

What to do if you have trouble sleeping

You may experience insomnia (an inability to sleep) because of discomfort, stress from personal concerns, or side effects from your medications. If you cannot sleep, try these tips:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable. Arrange the pillows so you can maintain a comfortable position.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
  • Use your bedroom for sleeping only. Don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.
  • Avoid napping too much during the day. At the same time, remember to balance activity with periods of rest.
  • If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend. Get your troubles off your mind.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Do not rely on sleeping pills. They can be harmful when taken with other medications. Use them only if recommended for a brief period by your healthcare provider if other non-medication methods don’t work.
  • Take diuretics, or “water pills,” earlier if possible, so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
  • If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine, but don’t exercise within two to three hours before the time you go to bed.

source:  my.clevelandclinic.org

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The Link Between Sleep and Mental Illness

Mental health relies on quality rest, new research confirms.

A good night’s sleep can do wonders for well-being. Folks who report being well-rested exhibit better cognitive functioning (the ability to focus, learn new information, and retrieve knowledge from memory), self-control, lower anxiety, higher pain tolerance, and healthier blood pressure levels than folks who report disturbed sleep. Sleep disturbances also simultaneously contribute to mental illnesses (ranging from generalized anxiety disorder and depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) while also being hallmarks of them.

Most studies examining sleep’s relationship with mental illness, however, ask participants to self-report how good or poor their nightly Z’s are. Wanting to gain a more definitive look at the link between sleep quality and mental health, a team of researchers led by Michael Wainberg, of Toronto, Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, tracked the sleep activity of 89,205 individuals by outfitting them with an accelerometer that measured their movements during the day and evening and correlated this data with participants’ histories of inpatient psychiatric admissions for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder as well as their genetic risks for various mental health issues. Data on psychiatric admissions and genetic risk were culled from the UK Biobank, a database containing hundreds of thousands of individuals’ genetic and behavioral information.

The Study

Wainberg et al.’s results, published in a recent edition of PLOS MEDICINE, found that accelerometer-derived sleep measures (which included bedtime and wake-up times, duration of sleep, and the number of times waking after falling asleep) significantly predicted participants’ psychiatric inpatient histories as well as their genetic risks of mental illness. More specifically, Wainberg’s team found that it wasn’t so much total sleep duration that predicted participants’ mental illness risk but rather the quality of the sleep they got during the time they were in bed: Participants whose accelerometers revealed that they woke more often after falling asleep and remained asleep for shorter bouts between bedtime and wake-up time were more likely to have met the criteria for a mental illness within their lifetime—and to be genetically predisposed to mental illness.

Why Do Sleep Disturbances and Mental Illness Go Hand in Hand?

There are several reasons why sleep disturbances may be linked with impoverished mental health. When we sleep, we generate new neural connections—a process called neurogenesis—particularly in a region of our brain associated with memory, mood, and emotion called the hippocampus. Inadequate sleep impairs neurogenesis, and impaired neurogenesis in the hippocampus has been found to contribute to depression as well as schizophrenia and drug addiction.

Insomnia and mental illness may also share a common underlying genetic predisposition: The same sets of genes that increase one’s risk of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder may also increase one’s risk of poor sleep. Mental illness and insomnia may also arise from a person’s trauma history. It is well known that trauma—especially childhood trauma—predicts a host of poor mental (and physical) health outcomes, including insomnia. Trauma dysregulates our arousal systems, leaving us more hyper-vigilant and thus less able to sleep peacefully and soundly (and more likely to have nightmares). Trauma also increases system-wide inflammation, which has been associated with various mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression.

sleepless

What This Means for Us

Not everyone who struggles with insomnia is destined to struggle with mental illness. But chronic sleep disturbances can and do give rise to impaired mental health, not to mention impaired interpersonal functioning and physical health. Even among individuals who do not meet the criteria for a mental illness, poor sleep quality is linked to increased psychological distress and relentlessly sleepless nights are found to nearly double one’s risk of depression and markedly raise one’s risk of future anxiety disorders. Getting adequate rest is critical to a healthy mind and body.

As the researchers note, “sleep problems are both symptoms of and modifiable risk factors for many psychiatric disorders.” Up to 20 percent of all adults in Western countries are estimated to struggle with insomnia. Strategies to improve sleep (think: psychopharmacological interventions, cognitive-behavioral therapies, noninvasive brain stimulation, and general sleep hygiene interventions—like reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, keeping lights dim, and avoiding screens an hour before bedtime) should be more routinely used to help treat and prevent mental illnesses. Additionally, mental illnesses may be more effectively detected at earlier stages by regular sleep quality screenings—say, at annual primary care physician assessments or even at each visit to an emergency room or urgent care center.

If you struggle with insomnia, talk to your doctor about treatment options, or consider downloading the CBTi Coach app (developed by Stanford University researchers in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help treat PTSD symptoms, including insomnia) that uses evidence-based cognitive-behavioral techniques to improve sleep quality and duration. And don’t forget to check out this website’s excellent therapist directory to get support with any psychological issue you may be up against that could be contributing to sleepless nights.

About the Author

Katherine Schreiber, MFA, LMSW, is a writer and social worker based in New York City who specializes in working with adults with severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia.

Posted October 16, 2021 |  Reviewed by Lybi Ma

source: www.psychologytoday.com


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22 Interesting Facts

Happy New Year!
In honor of 2022, I present to you 22 interesting little factoids to ponder.
  1. Avocados are toxic to almost every other animal except humans.
  2. Your body is actually designed to get 4 hours of sleep twice per day instead of 8 hours once.
  3. Loneliness is a greater hazard than obesity.
  4. Airplane food isn’t very tasty because our sense of smell and taste decrease by 20% to 50% while flying.
  5. A German study concludes that staring at women’s breasts for 10 minutes a day is better for your health than going to the gym.
  6. What you wear has an effect on how you behave.
  7. Men don’t generally finish maturing until around the age of 43.
    With women, it’s around the age of 32.
  8. Strawberries can whiten teeth.
    Strawberries
  9. Psychology says, you are not going to heal if you keep pretending that you are not hurt.
  10. Owning a cat can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than a third.
  11. Intelligent men tend to be more faithful.
  12. Singing in the shower helps boost your immunity, lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve your mood.
  13. Teenage years are considered to be the best and worst years of a person’s life.
  14. Lack of sleep can cause weight gain of 2 pounds (0.9 kg) in under a week.
  15. Sweet potato ranks Number One in nutrition of all vegetables.
  16. Psychology says, discipline is the highest form of self love.
  17. Having sex can unblock a stuffy nose.
  18. Sleep makes you more creative and makes your memories stronger.
  19. We’re more closely related to a mushroom, than a mushroom is related to plants.
  20. Music is so influential on the brain that the type you listen to actually has the ability to change the way you think and look at the world.
  21. Having a large amount of hair on your body is linked to having higher intelligence.
  22. Having an orgasm at least three times a week can reduce the l,ikelihood of death from coronary heart disease by 50%
@Fact  @UberFacts @PsychologyFacts Twitter
 
May 2022 bring you health, growth, prosperity and happiness.
May you not only survive but thrive!
~ Thanks for being here ~


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7 Things to Help You Sleep Better

FROM THE WEBMD ARCHIVES 

‌Sleep is an important part of every person’s life. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body eventually stops working properly. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that adults should get about seven or more hours of sleep each night. Young adults may need nine or more hours of sleep. A regular sleep schedule can help promote an overall healthier lifestyle. So if you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, read on for things you can do to help.

1. Find Your Sleep Schedule

‌Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is one of the most important ways to improve your sleep. You should aim for around eight hours of sleep a night. Getting up and going to bed at around the same time every day will help you develop a schedule. You should avoid sleeping in or staying up late, even on the weekend.‌

‌By sticking to a schedule, your body’s sleep-wake cycle will begin operating with more consistency. This will help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep through the night. ‌

2. White Noise Machines

‌If you’re having trouble falling asleep because of the noise around you, a white noise machine might help. When you’re trying to fall asleep you may become distracted by sounds like:

  • Cars honking
  • Doors closing
  • Children crying
  • Animal sounds
  • Common city sounds‌

‌A white noise machine in your room can help block the other noises that are bothering you. White noise masks disruptions by creating a constant ambient sound. You can create white noise with the following:

  • ‌A sound machine
  • A fan
  • Crowd noise on your laptop‌

Since there are different types of white noise, you’ll need to find one that’s right for you. Some machines and apps will let you choose different sounds to fall asleep to. ‌

3. Soothing Sounds App

‌One way to add white noise is by using your phone. There are plenty of apps out there for this purpose. Some of these will let you choose from sounds like:

  • Rain
  • Waves crashing
  • Trees blowing in the wind
  • Hairdryer
  • Whispering
  • Gentle humming‌

‌While these apps provide noise to help you fall asleep, there are some downsides. Research has shown that blue light coming from your phone or laptop can slow the production of your sleep hormones, making it harder for you to fall asleep. So keeping your phone near you may be counterproductive to your sleep schedule. ‌

4. Try Meditation For Sleep

‌Meditation uses techniques to help you relax both your body and mind. This in turn prepares you for sleep. You can meditate in bed right before you plan to go to sleep. ‌

‌Some relaxation techniques include:

  • Visualization
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Traditional meditation‌

‌There are other ways beyond meditation to help you wind down your mind at night. These include:

  • Quiet reading
  • Low-impact stretching
  • Soothing music
  • Lowering the lights
  • Disconnecting from electronics 30 minutes before bed
sleep

5. Make Your Room Sleep-Ready

‌Another important part of a good night’s rest is sleeping in the right environment. The first step to making your room sleep-ready is making sure it’s dark enough, as your brain releases melatonin in the dark. This creates a calm and sleepy feeling. You should start reducing your light exposure before bed. It might be a good idea to keep the following out of your room:

  • Television
  • Computer
  • Smartphone
  • Other devices that distract and/or emit light‌

If you need something to do while you fall asleep, try keeping a book nearby. Reading a few pages before you fall asleep can keep you engaged so that you don’t reach for your phone. ‌

‌Other ways you can make your bedroom more relaxing so that it’s a good place to fall asleep include: ‌

  • Pick a quality mattress and pillow. Proper support will keep your body from aching when you wake up.
  • Choose good bedding. Make your bed look inviting with the right sheets and blanket. You should also make sure your bedding will keep you at a comfortable temperature through the night.
  • Block out the light with blackout curtains in your bedroom. You can also use a sleep mask over your eyes.
  • Create a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. In addition to a white noise machine, you can try headphones or earplugs to block out disrupting sounds.
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex only. To ensure it’s a relaxing space, don’t do work, play, or other activities in your bed.

6. Try Different Methods

‌One thing that helps someone else sleep better might not help you in the same way. It’s okay to try different methods and routines. The most important part is that you get to sleep and stay asleep for seven hours or more. ‌

‌Keeping a sleep diary can help you track how you’re sleeping. You can write down what you did before bed, if you wake up in the middle of the night, and how you feel when you wake up. This will help you notice any problems or areas that need fixing.

7. Supplement Sleep With Melatonin

‌If you’ve tried everything listed above and you’re still having trouble sleeping, try melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. If your body isn’t releasing melatonin as it should, you will need a supplement. There are plenty of over-the-counter options available in your local pharmacy. Buying the same brand is important when taking this supplement. Since melatonin isn’t regulated by the FDA, you may get different dosages with different brands. ‌

‌You should talk to your doctor before you start taking supplements — especially if you’re taking other types of medication. Your doctor will be able to tell you the right dosage for you.

SOURCES:

‌American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “Sleep FAQs.”

‌Consumer Reports: “Sleep Gadgets to Conquer Insomnia.”

‌HelpGuide: “How to Sleep Better.”

‌John Hopkins Medicine: “Natural Sleep Aids: Home Remedies to Help You Sleep.”

‌Mayo Clinic: “Sleep tips: 6 steps to better sleep.”

‌Mayo Clinic Health System: “5 ways to get better sleep.”‌

National Sleep Foundation: “Will a Sound Machine Help You Drift Off?”

‌Sleep Foundation: “Healthy Sleep Tips,” “Technology in the Bedroom.”

By Martin Taylor          Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 11, 2021

source: WebMD