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The Happy Brain Chemicals that Makes You Feel Good

Did you know, 37% of people around the world are unhappy. That means at least 1 in 3 people you know aren’t happy with their life. Are you one of those people?

If so, there are simple ways to improve your happiness. Have you heard of happiness chemicals? Your brain releases these happy chemicals that make you feel good.

It is common to think happiness is a destination that you have to find either through material items, relationships, or career status. But happiness is the journey and something you can create on your own.

Improving your happiness can be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep. It is known that people who are sleep deprived have a harder time remembering positive ideas and an easier time remembering negative ideas.

What are the Happiness Chemicals

When you feel good, your brain is releasing one of the happiness chemicals or happy hormones. There are four main happiness brain chemicals:

  1. Dopamine
  2. Oxytocin
  3. Serotonin
  4. Endorphins

Each chemical has a job to do and when your brain releases one of these chemicals, you feel good.

It would be great if they all surged all the time. However, it does not work this way. Once the chemical has done its job, it will turn off, leaving you with a desire for more.

By understanding how these chemicals work, we can better improve our overall happiness by tapping into each of the four happiness chemicals.

Dopamine

Dopamine enables motivation, learning, and pleasure. It gives you the determination to accomplish goals, desires, and needs.

It’s similar to the, “I got it” feeling when you accomplish something. Once you achieve those goals, desires, or needs, dopamine gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure.

However, the overstimulation of dopamine can become a real problem because of its addictive nature. It is closely tied to developing bad habits or addictions.

The effects of dopamine are fleeting due to its instant gratification feeling, which leaves you desiring more.

Oxytocin

Oxytocin gives a feeling of trust, it motivates you to build intimate relationships and sustain them. It is also known as the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone” because it plays a role in bonding.

This hormone gives you the desire to stick together with those you “trust”, which creates a feeling of safety or comfort. It helps your body adapt to several different emotional and social situations.

Oxytocin can boost your immune system which makes you more resistant to the addictive qualities of dopamine. Unlike dopamine, oxytocin gives you a lasting feeling of calm and safety.

It can help fight stress, improve relationships, and promote long-lasting positive emotions.

Serotonin

Serotonin rewards you with a good feeling when you feel significant or important. It is the pleasure you get when you experience social power, loyalty, or status.

It results from finding opportunities to assert or prevail. This is not aggressive, rather it is a calm form of confidence and accepting yourself within the people around you.

Serotonin is what motivates a leader to excel and grow. It not only motivates you but your peers to do the same. The feeling of not letting down their leader, parent, or teacher is what causes this motivation.

Endorphin

Endorphins release a brief euphoria that masks physical pain. It is a response to pain and stress which also helps alleviate anxiety and depression. Any kind of physical distress can trigger endorphins.

However, you can also get a release of endorphins when you experience “runners high”. Runners high only occurs when you exceed your limits.

The release of endorphins acts as a natural pain killer and diminishes your perceptions of pain.

The Effects of Happiness Chemicals

At least 1 in 3 people in the world who were surveyed in 2020 were unhappy. That’s a huge portion of the population.

happiness chemicals

Happiness or lack thereof affects everyone and can contribute to poor overall health. There have been numerous studies linking depression to the reduction of happiness chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.

One study found people with clinical depression have increased levels of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A). This is an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters.

We will discuss how neurotransmitters play a role in the happiness chemicals later in this article, but simply this means you will get less dopamine or serotonin, thus, less happiness.

This deficiency can lead to various effects that could contribute to mental illnesses like depression.

How Deficiency Affects You

Low levels of happiness chemicals can lead to various symptoms such as fatigue, lack of motivation, and feeling anxious just to name a few.

Here are some of the common symptoms due to the deficiency of the happiness chemicals.

Dopamine Deficiency

  • procrastination
  • low self-esteem
  • lack of motivation or enthusiasm
  • low energy or fatigue
  • inability to focus
  • feeling anxious
  • feeling hopeless
  • mood swings

Oxytocin Deficiency

  • feeling lonely
  • stressed
  • lack of motivation or enthusiasm
  • low energy or fatigue
  • a feeling of disconnect from your relationships
  • feeling anxious
  • insomnia

Serotonin Deficiency

  • low self-esteem
  • being overly sensitive and emotional
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • mood swings
  • depression and feeling hopeless
  • social phobia
  • obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • insomnia

Endorphin Deficiency

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • aches and pains
  • insomnia
  • impulsive behavior

For those who have difficulty dealing with these symptoms and are feeling stress and overwhelmed, consider taking the window of tolerance self-assessment to identify your symptoms and how to self-regulate.

Benefits of Happiness

Happiness not only plays a role in making you feel good but contributes to:

1. Improved overall health

    • improved heart health and lower risk of heart disease
    • the ability to combat the stress hormone cortisol
    • stronger immune system so you’re less like to get sick
    • a healthier lifestyle such as physical activity and sleep habits
    • can help reduce aches and pain of those with chronic conditions
    • increase life longevity

2. Improved creativity and problem-solving skills

3. Benefiting the community through involvement with charities

4. Having more positive relationships with those around you

5. Being able to enjoy life more and get through life challenges easier

6. Being happy with what you have

How to Increase Happy Brain Chemicals

Most people don’t get enough of each of the happiness chemicals. I know I certainly struggle with this. If you have a full-time job or studies it can be challenging.

This deficiency can make you feel sad, depressed, hopeless, and anxious. Especially those who suffer from depression or experience downward spirals. Thankfully, they’re many simple ways to naturally boost each of the happy brain chemicals.

Below are some of the many natural ways you can get your daily happiness chemicals. Pick a few to start and remember that continuous practice is what makes a difference.

How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

  • meditate regularly (increases dopamine by 65%)
  • make a daily to-do list & long term goals (each time you tick off a task or goal you increase dopamine levels)
  • eat foods that are rich in L-Tyrosine (avocados, fish, eggs, cheese, banana, and pumpkin seeds)
  • exercise regularly (whichever form of exercise you enjoy the most will give you the most increase in dopamine levels)
  • create something such as writing, music, art & crafts (“if I create something, I am also creating dopamine”)

How to Increase Oxytocin Levels Naturally

  • physical touch, cuddling, hugging, making eye contact, and even shaking hands
  • socializing (connecting or talking with friends and family reduces cortisol and stimulates your vagus nerve)
  • touching your pet (research shows it lowers blood pressure)
  • getting a massage (reduces stress hormones)
  • acupuncture (elevates oxytocin concentrations)
  • listening to music (has a calming effect on the brain, slow-tempo music has also been shown to increase oxytocin)
  • exercise (stimulates the vagus nerve)
  • cold showers (stimulates the vagus nerve)
  • meditate

How to Increase Serotonin Levels Naturally

  • exercise (increases serotonin and dopamine, but also helps balance them)
  • cold showers (2-3 mins of cold showers can be unpleasant but offers great benefits that have longer-lasting effects than compared to caffeine)
  • sunshine (10-15 minutes of sunlight a day can increase serotonin and vitamin D)
  • eating foods such as banana, eggs, omega-3 fish, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, and probiotics
  • getting a massage (increases serotonin and decreases cortisol)

How to Increase Endorphin Levels Naturally

  • laughter and crying
  • creating music or art
  • eating dark chocolate and spicy foods
  • exercise or stretching
  • high-intensity interval training
  • getting a massage
  • meditate

Getting your daily happy chemicals seems pretty straight forward. But if you are struggling with happiness because you suffer from negative thinking patterns, I recommend learning to challenge negative thoughts first.

daily-dose-happiness-infographic

These are just some of the many ways you can get your daily happy hormones. If you have some that already work for you, continue doing those. If you don’t try picking a few from the list.

When choosing things that will help increase happiness levels, think about how each of them affects your health. There are three states of health (physical, mental, and social health).

Make sure you choose activities that don’t all contribute to one aspect only. Try to pick a few that can contribute to different aspects so you can reap the full benefits of the happiness chemicals.

If you are unfamiliar with the three aspects of the Health Triangle, I recommend taking the self-assessment first to see which areas you are lacking so you can choose activities that target that aspect.

Overstimulation of the Happiness Chemicals

Ever hear the saying…

“too much of a good thing is a bad thing

Well, it’s true. Overstimulation of each of the four happiness chemicals in the brain can lead to desensitization.

This in turn leads to an increased desire for those happiness chemicals which creates an addiction cycle. This addiction cycle can affect anyone, especially those who suffer from a mental illness such as depression.

Thankfully, there are ways we can manage or reduce overstimulation. For example, let’s take a look at dopamine as it is commonly known for its addictive nature.

How Dopamine Receptors Work

Dopamine itself is a type of neurotransmitter. The receptor is the receiver of the neurotransmitter. Each type of neurotransmitter has a unique receptor to match it.

To simplify, think of the receptor and neurotransmitter as a lock and key. A specific type of neurotransmitter will only fit into the correct receptor.

Once the dopamine attaches to the dopamine receptor it delivers a chemical message which gives you the effects of the neurotransmitter, in this case, dopamine.

Overstimulation of Dopamine Receptors

If your dopamine receptors are overstimulated, you can become desensitized to the effects of dopamine.

Overstimulation occurs when you experience prolonged periods of dopamine stimulation. This leads to the brain protecting itself by destroying some of the receptors.

Remember, happiness chemicals are only meant to be experienced for a short period before turning off.

Your dopamine levels should remain at an off or low state for some time before being stimulated again. This is a normal up and down experience with dopamine.

However, when you override your natural satiation mechanism by continually feeding yourself dopamine, then Supernormal Stimuli occurs.

This is what happens when you have a normal experience with dopamine versus supernormal stimuli:

stimuli

The supernormal stimuli is an overstimulation of dopamine which leads to desensitization. This tolerance then encourages us to feed our desire for dopamine even more which creates a cycle of addiction.

Here are some common activities we are all guilty of which leads to overstimulation:

  • eating fast food regularly
  • scrolling through social media feeds non-stop
  • binge-watching your favorite tv show all weekend with little to no breaks

Prevent Overstimulation

Preventing overstimulation can allow your dopamine levels to drop back to a normal level before the next stimulation.

This helps to maintain our sensitization and does not create an addictive attitude towards dopamine. By doing so this will allow you to feel the full effects of dopamine when you experience it.

Here are a few simple ways to prevent overstimulation:

  • limiting your use by stopping after some time (this allows enough time to drop to a normal level)
  • limiting the frequency of use (eating fast food once or twice a week versus every day)
  • not using it like a drug
  • not using it as an escape mechanism

This is especially important when you have a mental illness such as depression.

The desire to feel better or wanting to escape the pain you experience creates a higher risk for addiction due to the desire for happiness chemicals like dopamine.

Everything in moderation is important to maintain reasonable levels of happiness chemicals.

How to Increase Dopamine Receptors

Overstimulation causes dopamine receptors to be destroyed. Abstaining from the activities that cause overstimulation will allow the number of dopamine receptors to increase.

The increase of dopamine receptors will then increase the effects when dopamine is released. Thus, more happiness!

Here are a few other ways to increase dopamine receptors:

  • high-intensity interval training is the most effective form of exercise
  • digital detox (taking time off from technology for a week or two)
  • cold showers or ice baths

Hack Your Happiness Chemicals

To recap, there are four happiness chemicals that your brain releases to make you feel good:

  1. Dopamine: Enables motivation, learning, and pleasure
  2. Oxytocin: Gives you a feeling of trust to build intimate relationships
  3. Serotonin: When you experience social power or confidence in accepting yourself
  4. Endorphin: Brief euphoria to mask physical pain

How to Increase Happy Hormones Naturally:

  1. Understand how deficiency affects you by recognizing what symptoms you may experience
  2. Identify what activities you would enjoy doing to increase happiness
  3. Consistency is key, ensure you are regularly doing those activities
  4. Be aware of overstimulation and abstain from any activities as required

There are plenty of activities that can increase happiness hormones naturally. Choose a few you enjoy, either from the list or ones you already enjoy doing. What’s important is that you enjoy doing it, otherwise it won’t stick.

Remember, we’re looking to achieve long-term happiness so doing an activity once or twice will not make an impact on your lifestyle.

When you are dealing with an existing mental illness, addiction, or trauma, it can be difficult to increase your happiness chemicals.

Consider building up your window of tolerance first to help you deal with the stress, anxiety, or trauma you may have. Then when you come to increasing happiness, it becomes much easier to do.

source: MindPeelings


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4 Ways To Create And Maintain Inner Peace

4 Steps to Create a Lasting Inner Calm

When it seems like the world is in complete disarray, is it possible to create inner calm?

Is our well-being at the mercy of external events, exclusively affected by circumstances? Many people believe this to be true—or at least live their lives as if it is. The problem with this mindset is that it creates a massive sense of lacking something, of unrest and of overall stress. We cannot possibly feel like we are in control of our lives if we let the environment we live in rule our inner tranquility. The truth is, you’re greater than your surroundings and the events that are happening around you. You have the ability to create inner harmony regardless of situation or circum- stance. The key is to unlock your inner power and knowledge. As the founder of The Positive Change Group, I help clients find balance. And as an expert in the field, I know that understanding the following simple steps and staying true to them will create lifelong positive changes.

CREATING LASTING INNER CALM

1. YOUR TIME

Time truly is your most precious commodity. When clients I work with say they don’t have time, they’re expressing a false reality. We all have the same amount of time in a day. The difference is that people who are truly happy and have inner peace are very discerning about with whom and how they spend their time. You have time for anything that you make a priority. The key is to reassess your priorities and make sure they are in alignment with what is right for you.

It is simple, really. Where you spend your time can either drain you or energize you. When was the last time you asked yourself questions such as these: Why am I doing this? How is this serving me?

Do I really want to be doing this?

All these questions are necessary to ask because the answers lead to the next vital point: When we understand how precious our time is and how it directly relates to our self-love, then we’re more careful about whom we spend it with. And this is key to having what I call healthy boundaries.

Healthy boundaries are essential to finding inner calm. Many people can attribute the lack of healthy boundaries to a feeling of depletion and disharmony. How can you possibly have inner harmony if you are not able to say no to what doesn’t serve you? Many of us often feel a sense of obligation or duty to say yes to things that make us miserable.

Positive Change Exercise #1: Do a Time Audit

Take a week and look at the things you do and whom you spend your time with. Decide what brings you joy and what depletes you. The simple act of bringing consciousness to how you spend your time is the first step toward making change.

Once you become aware of how your time is being spent, then you can start to create healthy boundaries and choose when you need to politely say no. This may mean making small changes or starting out with only what you feel comfortable doing, working forward from there. And don’t worry about feeling selfish. The reality is that everyone around you gets the best version of you when you take care of yourself and cultivate that inner calm.

Emotional_intelligence

2. YOUR THOUGHTS

They can be the hardest things to change because thoughts are so powerful. But let’s just look at it in a simple way. Thoughts hold energy. For instance: Think about a time in your life when you felt like you weren’t enough or when you felt you were a disappointment. How does that feel?

Now I want you to think of a time in your life when you felt joy, love, or a sense of accomplishment. How does that feel?

Notice the difference in your body when thinking of each moment. Our thoughts are powerful and have energy.

Calming tip: When you’re in a difficult situation or feeling stressed, breathe in deeply, filling your body completely; on the exhale, intentionally release the stress. Now, in this moment, take yourself to that place where you felt love or joy or accomplishment. Sit in that energy and know that it exists in all moments. Then, take another deep breath, let the stress go and inhale love. Look at the situation you’re currently in and understand how your inner state can impact the outer environment, either by fueling stress or eliminating it. Keep breathing, and let your mind shift.

3. YOUR WORDS

The next key step is paying attention to your words. Do your words lift your spirits? Do the words you say create calm or promote the opposite reaction? It is impossible to feel a sense of inner peace when the words you speak are negative, judgmental or aggressive. Words carry energy. Where do you want your energy to be? Make sure your words match your desire.

Positive Change Exercise #2: Do a Vocabulary Audit

Notice some of the common phrases you use that create stress or struggle. I used to always say, “I am so busy.” It was an easy go-to when talking to people until I decided that I hated saying this and I hated the way it made me feel, as if I didn’t have time and was always on the go. Once I started to eliminate this phrase from my vocabulary, it was amazing what shifted. I felt more in control of my life and my time. “Busy” can be a choice. It takes practice to change, but the more you work on it, the easier it becomes.

4. YOUR ACTIONS

Finally, our actions need to create calm, too. This active part is one of the biggest aspects of creating change. But it is easier to carry out calm and harmonious behaviours when our words and thoughts are also in line with the goal of inner peace. When we train our brain to think and speak calmly, it becomes easier to do.

Positive Change Exercise #3: Do an Action Audit

Create a list of all the things you love to do that nourish your body and soul. Now look at that list. How many times a day or a week are you actually doing the things on your list? The simple act of bringing a conscious awareness to what you do is the first step toward accomplishing change.

  • Activities that can create inner calm:
  • Spending time in nature
  • Moving your body
  • Eating healthfully
  • Finding quiet time for self
  • Reading or journaling

Activities that can drain your energy:

  • Watching or reading the news
  • Eating unhealthy food
  • Surrounding yourself with toxic people
  • Spending too much time on social media

Think of other things you can add to your calm list and what you can eliminate or do less of from your energy drain list. This is what I call being in alignment.

The effort is in the inner work. When we realize the power we have within us to improve our thoughts, words and actions, we can see the results of these efforts in our own reality. We realize that we have some choice, regardless of what is going on around us. We get to choose what we think, say, do and feel.

May 11, 2021                   By: Julie Cass

source: www.canadianliving.com


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Trauma Is Probably The Reason You’re So Tired Right Now

Feeling more drained than usual lately? It’s not just you. Here’s what’s going on and what to do about it.

Exhaustion can occur after a period of intense stress or trauma.

You might expect, after a year of living with restrictions and extreme uncertainty, that at this point in the coronavirus pandemic ― with vaccines available in the U.S. and cities and businesses reopening ― people would be full of energy and enthusiasm, ready to get out and do things.

But instead, many people are finding themselves particularly exhausted and fatigued. Simple activities and socializations are followed by a real need to rest and recoup. Reinstatements of mask mandates following an uptick in COVID-19 cases are causing a resurgence of anxiety.

Trauma specialists aren’t surprised that people are feeling the weight right now. It isn’t until after the trauma starts to subside that people even begin to experience and become aware of the physiological aftershock.

A year-plus of chronic stress and trauma can take a massive toll on our health ― it damages the immune system, disrupts our circadian rhythms and makes us seriously fatigued. Our bodies have been through a lot. It’s no wonder we’re so tired.

How trauma causes fatigue

We’ve all experienced some kind of trauma as a result of the pandemic. Many people experienced direct trauma — they got sick themselves, or a loved one was diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19. We constantly faced the threat of becoming seriously ill, and for those most at risk, dying.

We have also been repeatedly exposed to death and illness via the media, and it’s known that exposure to distressing news is associated with traumatic stress and other mental health symptoms. And due to pandemic-related restrictions, people haven’t had access to the support systems and coping skills they would normally turn to, said Sarah Lowe, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health.

When our stress systems are chronically activated — as they have been throughout the pandemic — our bodies start to experience some wear and tear. Traumatic experiences run down the immune system, affect our circadian rhythms and impair our digestive health, Lowe said. When we’re actively going through a traumatic experience, our bodies produce a surplus of energy to combat mental and physical stressors. The body goes into survivor mode, and without time to recover, this can deplete our energy reserves.

computer

Often, it isn’t until after the traumatic event passes, and our bodies transition out of survival mode, that the physiological effects hit us and start to wreak havoc. Through her research on disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Tonya Hansel, an associate professor with the Tulane University School of Social Work who specializes in disaster mental health and trauma, has found that people generally don’t have the time or space to address their mental health needs during disasters, because they are too busy figuring out how to get through it.

“It isn’t until the stressor starts to be removed that we can really see what that toll has taken,” Hansel said.

On top of all this, while we are at a turning point in the pandemic, there is still some level of uncertainty. Unvaccinated people remain at risk from the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, and scary headlines may have vaccinated people fearful about how well they’re protected (which, according to data, is very well overall). And change of any sort, even good change, can be distressing.

“Even though these are positive changes and people are getting out into the world, it still is a change, in that I think it can be stress on the body,” Lowe said.

There are a few self-care methods that can help address trauma-induced fatigue.

How to deal with trauma-induced fatigue

The biggest step is to practice good sleep hygiene. Give your body the rest it needs. Lowe’s three tips for this: Avoid caffeine at night, don’t exercise before bed, and shut off your devices an hour before bedtime.

During the day, carve out some time for restoration. Meditate, do some yoga, go for a walk or spend time with some loved ones. Don’t feel like you need to pack your schedule with activities now that society has reopened.

“Try to take it slow and have compassion for oneself that these positive experiences might be taxing, and make space for rest and recovery,” Lowe said.

Set smaller goals and find new coping methods. The last thing you want to do is put more stress on your body because you aren’t getting back to normal as fast as you’d like, Hansel said.

“Start small and make small changes that bring joy in your life,” she advised.

There is no clear timeline for how long it will take each of us to recover. Some people may notice improvements relatively soon, but a lot of people will likely continue to struggle in some way, shape or form for the next several months.

If you’re feeling really exhausted, and that fatigue is affecting your job, relationships, or school or home life, consider seeking help from a counselor or mental health professional, Lowe said.

Above all, be patient with yourself. “It’s not fair if we hold our bodies accountable to just change overnight,” Hansel said. “Just as this was a slow process building up to that stress, fatigue is also going to be a slow process in bringing that stress down.”

By Julia Ries   07/20/2021 

source: HuffPost Life


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Foods That Can Reduce Stress

Stress levels may be high these days, but did you know that what we choose to eat can help to reduce stress, ultimately allowing us to take charge of our mental health?

“Instead of thinking of food as ‘stress eating’ or ‘guilty pleasures,’ we can think of using food to shape the lens in how we experience stress,” said psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of the upcoming book “Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety.”

Taking control of stress with the foods we eat can help to counter inflammation throughout the body, as well as elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, which can otherwise lead to high blood sugar, increased appetite and weight gain, among other symptoms, according to Felicia Porrazza, a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian who helps stressed-out clients find natural ways to improve their overall wellness.

Feeling less stressed already? I hope so! Here are some food suggestions to help you live in a state of calm.

Open your palate to oily fish

Try out anchovies, sardines and herring, in addition to salmon, trout and mackerel. These foods are a rich source of stress-busting omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which play an important role in brain health.

“Increasing omega-3 fatty acids can help to regulate how our bodies handle stress,” Porrazza said. Stress can increase inflammation in the body so if we can reduce inflammation by consuming more omega-3s, we could also potentially reduce cortisol levels, which could improve health and wellness, Porrazza explained. In fact, omega 3s help to blunt the cortisol response after acute stress, some research has shown. On the flip side, low levels of omega 3s may affect the function of the HPA, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, axis, which plays a role in how our bodies respond to stress, according to Porrazza.

Omega-3 fats might help to reduce the symptoms of clinical anxiety, concluded a recent review and meta-analysis of 19 clinical trials involving over 2,200 participants from 11 countries.

Consuming high amounts of these fatty acids in fish may help protect us from depression, too, according to other research.

Need some ideas besides grilled salmon? Try a Caesar salad with an anchovy vinaigrette dressing, or add some herring to your Sunday bagel order.

Mix it up with shellfish

Mussels, clams and oysters are rich in vitamin B12 in addition to omega-3s, which are both prominent nutrients in diets connected with lower anxiety, Ramsey explained.

In fact, B vitamins, including vitamin B12, help to maintain the nervous system, and stress can cause a slight increase in the body’s requirements of these B vitamins, explained Martha McKittrick, a New York City-based registered dietitian who provides nutrition counseling and wellness coaching to many stressed-out New Yorkers.

Vitamin B deficiencies can increase the risk of developing stress-related symptoms such as irritability, lethargy and depression.

Since vitamin B12 is not produced by plants, if you are vegan, you should ensure that you are consuming vitamin B12 from fortified foods or a supplement.

Consume more vitamin C

Foods such as red and green peppers, oranges, grapefruit and kiwi are rich in vitamin C, which in high doses has antidepressant effects and improves mood, and may be helpful in treating stress-related disorders.

Other research has revealed that vitamin C may help reduce anxiety among high school students.

To boost your vitamin C intake, aim to include one vitamin C-rich food with a meal, and another for a snack. You could also try one of my favorites: dark chocolate-dipped kiwis or oranges for dessert!

Bananas

 

Choose healthy carbs

Carbohydrates can help to boost serotonin production in the brain, which is key in influencing our mood. “Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for happiness and well-being,” Porrazza said.

Serotonin has a calming effect and also promotes sleep and relaxation, McKittrick explained. In fact, low levels of brain serotonin, research has suggested, can lead to increased vulnerability to psychosocial stress.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is necessary for the production of serotonin in the brain. Complex carbs including whole grains and vegetables can help boost levels of serotonin because they make tryptophan more available in the brain.

Carbs like soybeans and peas also deliver a small dose of protein, which can help to balance blood glucose levels. This benefit is important, since fluctuations in blood glucose can cause irritability and worsen stress levels.

Additionally, if you eat too many highly processed carbs that are loaded with sugar and lack protein or healthy fats, like cookies and sweets, you can experience blood sugar spikes and crashes, “and that can make you feel more stressed,” McKittrick added.

Fill up on fermented foods

Fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, tempeh and sauerkraut contain friendly bacteria known as probiotics, which have the ability to reduce stress and cortisol levels.

In fact, randomized controlled trials featuring probiotics suggest a causal link between the gut microbiota and stress responding.

Feeling shy? Fermented foods may help reduce symptoms of social anxiety, too, research has shown. These probiotic-rich foods may also help control negative thoughts that are associated with low moods.

How does it all work? Our gut bacteria produce about 95% of our body’s serotonin supply, which can positively affect how we feel, according to Porrazza. On the flip side, stress can increase inflammation and gut dysbiosis, which is basically an imbalance of the gut microbiota, and this can negatively influence mood.

Other fermented foods include sourdough bread, kimchi, miso and pickles.

Ramsey fights stress with a kefir-rich banana smoothie. “I get a good dose of potassium from the banana and I add nuts, cinnamon and cacao for its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a great energy and brain boost.”

Bananas are also a source of vitamin B6, which helps in the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin.

Munch on magnesium-rich foods

A lot of times when you are stressed out, your magnesium levels can become depleted, McKittrick explained. “If you have a magnesium-deficient diet, it can raise stress hormones, so it is important to eat magnesium-rich foods, like leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds; legumes; and whole grains,” she said.

Conquer stress with crunchy foods

“A lot of my clients, when they think about crunchy foods, they think of chips, but sometimes you can manage stress with healthier crunchy foods like celery and carrots with hummus,” Porrazza said.

Cutting up an apple and then munching on it can also release stress, as Porrazza has observed with her clients. “Doing something with their hands can help them take themselves out of their head and give them a little bit of a mindful moment, which can take them out of the stress of the moment,” she added.

Take a tea break

Green, black and oolong teas are rich in theanine, an amino acid that helps reduce stress and promote calm feelings.

These teas are also rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which helps protect against disease.

Black tea in particular has been studied for its role in stress recovery and reduction in cortisol levels.

And while there isn’t enough research to show that chamomile reduces stress, the act of sitting and drinking a cup of this herbal tea may be calming for some, Porrazza explained.

Other stress-busting diet tips

Lastly, there are a few diet strategies to avoid, in order to feel less stressed. One is to consume less caffeine.

Caffeine has effects on the brain and nervous system and can elevate cortisol levels and exacerbate the effects of stress on the body,” McKittrick said.

Because of caffeine’s effects, it’s important to pay attention to how your body responds to caffeine. “If I am stressed, I can only have half a cup of coffee,” McKittrick added.

And it’s important to not go too long without eating. Doing so can cause low blood sugar, which can make you feel more irritable and worsen stress. “It’s very individual, but for most I would say don’t go more than four to five hours without food – but pay attention to your own body,” McKittrick said.

By Lisa Drayer, CNN        January 23, 2021

source : CNN


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How To Create A Morning Routine That Reduces Anxiety And Stress

The self-care rituals you practice in the morning
can improve your mental health for the rest of the day.

As a person who’s dealt with anxiety since I was a kid, I find that I’m often most anxious first thing in the morning. When I open my eyes, all of the worries and potential stressors that await me flood my mind. The pit in my stomach makes me want to stay in bed as long as I can so I don’t have to face the day ahead.

Of course, this avoidance only exacerbates what I’m feeling. What alleviates it is just the opposite: Getting up on the earlier side so I have time for my morning routine. These days, that’s making an iced coffee, taking my dog for a walk, following a short workout video, writing my to-do list for the day and ― when time permits ― meditating and journaling.

“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day,” Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and well-being consultant in Britain, told HuffPost. “A worry-filled morning will often flood into an anxious afternoon.” Conversely, starting the morning with intention creates a sense of calm and confidence that makes the rest of the day seem more manageable.

So how do you create those morning rituals that will quiet your racing mind and stick with them? Below, experts offer some helpful advice.

How to start a solid morning routine

Be realistic about how much you can dedicate to your morning routine. 

Consider how much time you can realistically carve out for yourself.

“We all have a period of the morning that we have some level of control over,” Chambers said. “For some people, that may be an hour, for others, it may be 20 minutes.”

For example, if you have young kids or a long commute to the office, you may have less time to work with. So figure out what’s realistic for your circumstances.

Waking up earlier may help your mornings feel less frazzled. That said, you shouldn’t force yourself into becoming an early riser at the expense of getting a full night’s rest. Remember that sleep plays a pivotal role in your emotional regulation.

“Often we hear of routines that start in the early hours of the morning,” Chambers said. “For some people, this is a high-energy time and a perfect time to start your routine. But if you’re limiting your sleep or you just don’t function well so early, it is going to be detrimental.”

Experiment to figure out which rituals work best for you.

Finding out which morning routine additions alleviate your anxiety may take some trial and error. What works for your partner, friend or that random influencer you follow on Instagram may or may not work for you.

“Think about your biggest stressors and problems that trigger your anxiety, and then consider what really helps in these situations,” Chambers said. “Then look to those activities and experiment. There are many ways and methods to exercise, plan, journal, listen and read, and some will feel just right for you.”

Make it easy and enjoyable so you stick with it.

You don’t need to come up with some elaborate 20-step process to reap the benefits of a morning routine (but, hey, if you want to, more power to you).

“Morning routines are most effective when we enjoy them and they are easy to integrate into our lives,” Chambers said. “They are not about completely changing what we do, but adding small, positive changes that compound together.”

“Morning routines are most effective when we enjoy them and they are easy to integrate into our lives.”

– LEE CHAMBERS, ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND WELL-BEING CONSULTANT

One way to make the morning smoother? Do some preparation the night before, like laying out your workout clothes, whipping up a make-ahead breakfast or putting your journal by your coffeemaker.

“Leave things to trigger you to remember, make what you need accessible and craft a space where it is possible,” Chambers said.

But know that you’re not going to execute your routine perfectly every day ― and that’s OK.

You might be on a roll for a couple of weeks and then fall off for a few days. If you mentally prepare for these hiccups, you’ll be less likely to beat yourself up when they happen.

“It’s easy to move into judgment and criticism of yourself when things don’t go as you would have wanted or when you don’t immediately want to jump out of bed in the morning to start a new routine,” said marriage and family therapist Lynsie Seely of Wellspace SF in San Francisco. “Expect that there will be difficult moments and connect with your internal voice that offers kind words and encouragement along the way.”

And when you do follow your routine, give yourself some praise.

“Celebrate a little,” Chambers said. “Similarly, when you miss it, be kind to yourself and get prepared for the following morning.”

Some habits worth trying to incorporate into your morning

Here are some expert-recommend practices to reduce anxiety. Experiment to see what works well for you and then narrow it down. 

We asked mental health professionals to recommend some practices that help soothe anxiety. Try out a few of these and check in with how you feel afterwards — but know that it may take some time to see the benefits. Then you can determine if you want to add any to your a.m. routine.

1. Start your day by drinking water.

Before you have your tea or coffee, hydrate with a glass of a water as soon as you wake up.

“It gives us increased cognitive function, allowing us more clarity of mind, can elevate our mood and energy, and promotes more balanced emotional regulation and takes less than a minute,” Chambers said. “And it’s a great habit to stack your next part of the routine into, and you can even prepare your water the evening before.”

2. Walk outside.

Taking a walk outdoors is a calming, grounding way to begin the day.

“It is also great as it gets sunlight into our eyes, stimulating serotonin, which boosts our mood,” Chambers said. “It also ignites our senses, as the wind hits our face, sounds of the environment fill our ears and we smell the external world. It makes us mindful and eases our worries in the process.”

3. Practice gratitude.

Take a moment to reflect on all of the good in your life. You can list a few things in your head, share them with a partner or child, or write them down in a journal.

“Start your day with a grateful heart before you even get up from bed,” said Renato Perez, a Los Angeles psychotherapist. “Start naming all the things you’re grateful for. This could be done through prayer or simply a list you say out loud to the universe or Mother Nature.”

4. Try to avoid checking your phone first thing.

Those work emails, text messages, Instagram notifications and news alerts can wait a bit. If you charge your phone by your bed or use it as an alarm clock, you’re going to look at it right when you wake up. Before you know it, you’re sucked in and two minutes of scrolling turns into 20. Try charging your phone across the room so it’s not within reach. Or charge it outside of the bedroom and use an alarm clock instead.

“I see so many people who immediately check their work email in the morning, which automatically puts them in ‘work mode’ and makes them feel anxious about the day ahead before they even get out of bed,” said Gina Delucca, a clinical psychologist at Wellspace SF. “Similarly, some people hop on social media or start reading news articles while lying in bed, which may trigger anxiety by reading or seeing something negative or scary.”

That doesn’t mean you have to avoid your phone altogether, which just isn’t realistic for most of us. “But I definitely recommend giving yourself some peace and quiet in the morning before the daily grind begins,” Delucca added.

5. Take some deep breaths.

When you’re anxious, you might notice your breathing is quick and shallow, rather than slow and deep.

“This is a part of our body’s natural stress response, and it coincides with a few of the other physical sensations you may notice when you feel anxious — like rapid heart rate, dizziness and upset stomach,” Delucca said. “While we don’t have voluntary control over some of these bodily sensations, we do have control over our breathing, and we can use our breath to help induce a more relaxed state.”

“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day.”

– LEE CHAMBERS, ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND WELL-BEING CONSULTANT

Those deep, nourishing inhalations and exhalations stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, producing a sense of calm.

“To begin, try to spend a few minutes each morning sitting or lying in a comfortable position, closing your eyes and taking a few slow, controlled, deep breaths,” Delucca said. “Try breathing in through your nose and then breathing out through either your nose or mouth. When you inhale, imagine that you are filling up a balloon in your abdomen rather than just breathing into your chest.”

6. Meditate.

“There is no better way to quiet the mind than by practicing meditation,” Perez said. “Start small — two to three minutes — and increment every week.”

When your mind wanders away, which it inevitably will, gently bring it back to your breath.

You can sit in silence, listen to relaxing music, do a guided mediation through an app like Calm, Headspace or Insight Timer, or find one on YouTube

You can also try repeating a mantra — “I am safe, and I will be OK,” is one Delucca suggested. Or do a body scan: Start at the top of your head, bringing awareness to each body part and releasing tension from that area as you slowly work your way down to your toes.

7. Eat a nourishing breakfast.

“Our mood is highly influenced by what we eat,” Chambers said.

Opt for a balanced breakfast that contains protein, healthful fats, fiber and complex carbohydrates — think a vegetable omelet with avocado toast or oatmeal with nut butter, berries and chia seeds. Refined carbohydrates, such as doughnuts and sugary cereals, can lead to a blood sugar spike and crash, “causing challenges with emotional regulation, which may leave you feeling anxious,” Chambers added. (That said, if the occasional croissant or chocolate chip muffin brings some joy to your morning, it’s totally fine. Food is meant to be enjoyed, after all.)

8. Read a few pages from a book.

Rather than reading news or catching up on your social media feeds early in the morning, Perez recommends picking up a book that inspires you and reading for a few minutes ― even just five pages.

“Find a book that really speaks to you and makes you feel good,” he said.

9. Move your body.

It could be yoga, walking, running, dancing, cycling, strength-training or even stretching.

“When you exercise in the morning, you may notice improved focus and energy during the rest of the day, as well as better sleep at night, which can also help to tame anxiety,” Delucca said. “In addition, exercising in the morning can enhance your mood by giving you a boost of endorphins and a sense of accomplishment at the start of your day.”

It’s worth noting that some people report that certain workouts, especially very intense ones, actually stoke their anxiety rather than reduce it. So just be aware of that.

“We react differently to exercise, and it is a stressor,” Chambers said. “Exercising with too much intensity for some people can lead them to become fatigued and more likely to feel anxious.”

10. Do some visualization.

A visualization practice can help you set the desired tone for your day. If you’re feeling anxious and distracted, perhaps you’d like to feel calm, focused and empowered instead. Seely recommends calling on a memory that evokes that feeling for you. Tune into the small details and sensations of the experience.

“For example, if I’m visualizing a memory where I hiked up to the peak of a mountain and I’m overlooking the summit, I might notice the details of the incredible view, the sounds of nature around me, the feel of my muscles after climbing the steep terrain, the smell and temperature of the air, the sensation of feeling accomplished, proud, unstoppable,” she said. “Really getting into every sensation of the memory helps your body to soak in the experience and primes your physiology for that particular state of being ― in this example, empowered and ready to take on the day.”

And if you can’t think of a specific memory, allow yourself to daydream and build the desired experience in your imagination.

How to stick to your morning routine

“You’re more likely to follow through on behavior change when you set clear and specific goals versus vague aspirations,” said psychologist Gina Delucca. 

You may think your biggest stumbling blocks are a lack of willpower or hitting the snooze button half a dozen times. But often it “comes down to a lack of clarity with the routine,” Delucca said.

“You’re more likely to follow through on behavior change when you set clear and specific goals versus vague aspirations,” she added.

So instead of saying something general, like, “I want to work out in the morning,” make the goal more concrete: “I’m going to do a virtual yoga class at 7:30 a.m. after I finish my tea.”

Delucca also recommends getting up around the same time each day and outlining what specific activities you want to incorporate into your routine and in what order. It may help to write them down.

“When you do something repeatedly in the same order, you can eventually develop a habit,” Delucca said. “When a habit is formed, you’re not solely relying on how you feel in the moment in terms of your mood, motivation or willpower. Habits feel automatic without any guesswork as to what you should do next.”

She offered the example of taking a shower. You likely shampoo, condition, shave and wash your body in a specific order without giving it much thought.

“It’s automatic because the routine is clear and you’ve created a habit in which one action flows directly into the next action without any questioning,” Delucca said. “So, try to be as specific and consistent as possible when creating a morning routine. Each activity will serve as a cue for the next, and with time, your morning routine will flow.”

Kelsey Borresen – Senior Reporter, HuffPost Life        09/16/2020 

source:  www.huffingtonpost.ca

 

breakfast
 
 

5 Habits You Should Avoid
First Thing In The Morning

Don’t make these mistakes when you wake up.
Here’s what to avoid in your a.m. routine and what to do instead.
 
A few simple changes to your morning habits
can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
 
A good morning routine is a foundational part of self-care, affecting everything from your energy levels and productivity to the state of your skin.
 
But it is easy to fall into less-than-ideal habits without even realizing it ― particularly during a global pandemic when we are collectively coping with much bigger issues and routines have long gone out the window.
 
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get back on track. We asked experts for some of the most common morning routine mistakes and easy fixes to try instead.
 

Mistake #1: Hitting The Snooze Button

More than half of Americans say they hit the snooze button daily, so know that if you do too, you’re in good company. Also, it’s really not your fault. Growing research suggests that workdays and school days start too early, causing millions of kids and adults to lose out on the hours of sleep their brains and bodies need. So trying to sneak in a few last-minute ZZZs might seem like your only recourse. But alas, it doesn’t work.
 
“It’s so tempting to keep hitting snooze,” said Niket Sonpal, a New York City-based internist and faculty member with the Touro College of Medicine. “But it’s not beneficial.”
 
That’s because the extra minutes you eke out at that point aren’t actually restorative, even if they feel good at the time.
 
Plus, you could be disrupting the longer periods of REM sleep that tend to happen early in the morning. And frequent interruptions to the natural sleep cycle have been linked to range of both mental effects (like cognitive issues and depression) as well as physical ones (like metabolic problems).
 
“If you want some extra time in the morning, a better idea would be to set your clock ahead 15 minutes and wake up the minute it goes off,” Sonpal said. “If you have to set a really annoying alarm tone, then do so.”
 

Mistake #2: Letting Your Mind Be ‘Directed’ By Your Phone

Another big morning mistake people make is reaching for their phones while they’re still under the covers, said Naomi Parrella, a primary care physician with Rush University Medical Group.
 
If the very first thing you do in the morning is check email, look at social media or scan the day’s headlines, you’re essentially letting things outside of your control “hijack” your very first thoughts and feelings, Parrella said.
 
You’re giving your mind “inputs that are effectively somebody else deciding for you what goes in your brain,” she said. And she is worried that people have become almost “addicted” to the up-and-down news cycle.
 
So now is the time to be diligent about boundaries. It’s OK if you reach for your phone first thing in the morning because it’s your alarm; it’s not great if you’re picking it up to immediately connect to the outside world.
 
Take a few deep breaths instead. Do some stretches. Say “hi” to your partner or kids. Drink some water.
 
Set boundaries with your devices by not doomscrolling when you first get up.
 

Mistake #3: Filling Up On Sugar Right Away

“Sugar and super, ultra-processed breakfast foods cause a hormonal shift in the body,” Parrella said. “Now you’re going to be on this roller coaster of being hungry, being moody, possibly having a sugar crash.”
 
The average North American consumes 77 grams of sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association, which is about three times the recommended daily amount for women. (The recommended amount is slightly higher for men.) And experts tend to warn that breakfast is the most problematic meal of the day when it comes to added sugar thanks to common offerings like sweetened coffee and tea, cereals, syrup, breakfast bars, sugary smoothies and yogurts, and on and on.
 
So what does “too much” actually mean? Public health guidelines are a good starting point, but Parrella doesn’t like to be too prescriptive or harsh. Basically, the more sugar you can cut out of your morning routine, the better.
 
“If you want to really start the day strong and solid and anchored, it’s really helpful if you can cut out the sugar completely,” she urged — but that’s not necessary.
 
Sugar isn’t the devil, it’s just recommended that you choose wisely when to enjoy it. And if you do have a sugar-heavy morning, try incorporating some movement into your routine right after.
 
“You might go for a little walk, you might do some sun salutations or a few yoga moves, but the worst would be to go from [eating sugar] to sitting at your chair or in the car for hours on end,” Parrella said.
 

Mistake #4: Not Washing Your face Properly Or Using SPF

One morning mishap that really bothers some skin care experts? Not washing your face because you did it the night before, said Stacy Chimento, a Miami-based dermatologist with Riverchase Dermatology.
 
There is a chance your skin can pick up yucky stuff at night, like dead skin cells that collect on your pillowcase or dust that might be circulating in your sleep space while you get those ZZZs. (One stomach-churning investigation suggested that our pillows have as many microbes as our toilet seats.)
 
We must note that this tip is a little contentious: Some dermatologists say it’s not strictly necessary to wash your face with products in the morning if you’ve done a thorough job the night before. Using soap or cleansers multiple times might dry out your skin.
 
If you do go that route, take note of the water temp. “Although it might be tempting to wash your face with very cold water to wake yourself up, the temperature of the water should not be extreme,” Chimento said. “Wash with lukewarm water. Most people are rushing in the morning. Take care not to tug at your skin or be overzealous if you are exfoliating your face.”
 
Whatever you choose, make sure to slather on plenty of SPF. “You need at least a teaspoon to cover your whole face,” Chimento said — as well as your neck and chest.
 

Mistake #5: Completely Overlooking Your Mental Well-Being

The mornings can be rough: You’re tired, you’re often rushing or balancing walking pets, getting kids out the door and catching up on last-minute deadlines.
 
However, “if you don’t start the day right, you can spend the next few hours trying to work your way out of a ‘funk,’” Sonpal said — and she urges everyone to make sure they find even a few moments to tend to their well-being.
 
The strategies you use can be quite simple. “Open the blinds or shades wherever you can in your home to let in natural light,” Sonpal said. Then find a few moments to stretch, to meditate, to write in a gratitude journal or just connect, in a positive way, with a loved one.
 
One recent research paper that offered brief, actionable steps people can take every day to boost well-being pointed to the potential benefits of just taking a few deep breaths or spending a few moments focusing on the qualities you admire about a friend or loved one. Those kinds of quick and easy exercises can set you up for the day and train your brain over time.
 
“Not everyone is a ‘morning person,’” Sonpal said. But “if you establish the right routine, you can help yourself to function better.”
 
 
Catherine Pearson   02/10/2021
 
 


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How Anxiety and Your Diet are Connected, According to Experts

The baseline existential dread of the pandemic has made me more attuned than ever to my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms. These days, I’m especially mindful about not only checking in with my therapist and refilling my medication on time, but also about my intake of caffeine, booze, and foods I have trouble digesting, all of which seem to worsen my anxiety.
For the past several years, researchers have also been interested in the connection between what we eat and how we feel. Along the way, anti-anxiety diets have emerged, along with lists of foods to eat and avoid to keep anxiety at bay. Ever the skeptical health journalist, though, I wonder whether we have enough evidence to conclude that certain foods can increase or decrease anxiety. Can you really manage your anxiety through diet?
According to the experts I interviewed, the general idea that what you eat can impact your anxiety levels is consistent with the research so far. But they caution that the effects of specific foods on anxiety aren’t entirely clear, and they remain wary of broad recommendations about what to eat and what to avoid in order manage anxiety. Last but certainly not least, remixing your diet can’t replace therapy or medication.
“Quite a bit of research” shows that staying hydrated and following a balanced diet, with minimal caffeine and alcohol, can affect mental health, says Sarah Adler, a clinical associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford Medicine. We know caffeine is a stimulant, while alcohol can cause a rebound in anxiety following the short-term relief it provides, and it disrupts sleep, which “really primes your body to be more anxious.” We also know your body metabolizes the complex carbs in whole foods slower than the simple sugars in processed foods, which helps stabilize your blood sugar, creating an overall sense of calm.
This is consistent with what we know about the trajectory anxiety tends to follow: it feeds on itself, growing until it plateaus, then resolves, says Petros Levounis, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “If you sustain this curve, meaning, if you stay with the anxiety, and your body experiences the plateau and the resolution, it teaches your body little by little, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he explains. “Your anxiety gets a little better.”
Aborting your anxiety, though — not only by physically fleeing the source of it, but chemically, by consuming alcohol or processed sugar, for example — makes this lesson harder for your body to learn, worsening your anxiety in the long run. These ingredients have an immediate, satisfying effect on your central nervous system. Complex carbohydrates that take time to digest allow you to sit with your anxiety.
Beyond healthy eating guidelines, though, a vast amount of literature has surfaced about the gut-brain connection, Adler tells me. Your gut, a.k.a., your intestines, “has something like 100 million neurons, and those neurons help you produce neurotransmitters,” including “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin. “Whether [the neurons are] firing properly is highly influenced by what’s inside your gut.” Specifically, the balance of the bacterial community that inhabits in your gut — your gut microbiome — “plays a really important role in the function of those neurons.”
And now, scientists are just beginning to understand how specific nutrients might directly affect anxiety. An analysis of human studies associated treatment with omega-3 fatty acid, found at high levels in fish and seafood, with reduced anxiety symptoms. Adler cites studies that have demonstrated, for example, that diets low in magnesium increase anxiety-related behaviors in mice, suggesting that magnesium-rich foods like chard, nuts, seeds, and whole grains “can potentially have an impact on anxiety.” Some foods with possibly anxiety-lowering properties have been shown to increase the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. The results are preliminary but promising.
Some anti-anxiety diets are based partly on the theory that links anxiety to inflammation, and call for eliminating supposedly pro-inflammatory foods like sugar, while upping your intake of anti-inflammatory foods like turkey and turmeric, for a few weeks. Indeed, “anxiety is generally thought to be correlated with a lower inflammation state,” Adler says. But “I think I would be really mindful of telling to people to cut out things.” Anxiety is associated with disordered eating behaviors, so heavily restrictive diets might make you more susceptible to them if you already struggle with anxiety.
Levounis is also wary of recommendations of foods based on whether they increase or decrease inflammation. “I’m not sure we’re at the point where we can pinpoint foods and how they relate to pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects,” he says. Suggesting or advising against a pro- or anti-inflammatory food to manage anxiety requires first, proving it’s pro- or anti-inflammatory, and then, whether eating it even translates to alleviating or worsening anxiety. “It’s a two-step process. I’m not sure if we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s on it.”
Adler also cautions against making “blanket recommendations for everyone,” since responses to specific foods vary from person to person. Instead, she advises being mindful of how different foods make you feel, not just in the moment, but the next day, as well. Maybe cut out a category of food, like processed foods, for a period of time, with the intention of noting how you feel. Then, gradually reintroduce them, asking yourself if you feel any differently when doing so. This way, you can identify specific foods within a category that affect your anxiety.
Particularly if you have an anxiety disorder — anxiety that impairs your ability to function as opposed to a healthy response to a stressful situation — you don’t want to address it solely through diet. “It’s concerning to think that somebody may rely on choice of food to treat bona fide psychiatric disorders while we do have treatments that have been scientifically proven to help,” like medication and therapy, Levounis says. If you have an anxiety disorder and want to experiment with your diet, he suggests speaking to a nutritionist or primary care doctor, but without neglecting tried and true treatments.
She believes therapy would ideally include talking about other factors related to emotional well-being, such as diet and exercise. “Managing your diet is a part of managing your anxiety,” she says. After all, any self-sabotaging habits you engage in beyond therapy can undermine the hard work you do within it. Rather than directing you to change your diet in a certain way, it can give you an understanding of “all the levers you can pull to help you reduce your anxiety.”
The idea of diet as one of several tools to manage anxiety really resonates. Personally, I’ll stick to my healthy-ish diet, along with therapy and medication, without getting too caught up in whether I should be eating X or Y and focusing on what makes me feel good.
By Melissa Pandika      Jan. 21, 2021
source: www.mic.com

How To Help A Friend With Anxiety When You’re Struggling Yourself

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to assist a loved one with their mental health, that’s OK. Here’s what therapists recommend.
Anxiety levels are through the roof, which can only be expected in a pandemic – and sadly some friendships are feeling the strain as a result.
Friends are catching up on Zoom, messaging on Whatsapp and in some cases meeting one-on-one to chew the fat over the pandemic, subsequent lockdowns and the huge life – and therefore, mental – impact it’s having.
Anxiety levels appear to remain the same as they were back in April, according to a survey by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is monitoring the social impacts of the coronavirus in Britain.
Its most recent survey revealed 76% of adults are now “very or somewhat” worried about the effect of the coronavirus on their life – this has increased gradually since the end of the summer.
It’s getting to the point where some friendships are feeling increasingly strained, and sometimes one-sided – people are playing host to their friends’ venting sessions while struggling to deal with their own anxieties – and finding it hard to juggle the two.
“My friend unloads her anxiety on me, and now I feel drained,” was the title of a Guardian advice column submission that had heads bobbing in agreement.
“It’s becoming less about having conversations and more about listening to an exhausting monologue,” the advice-seeker wrote of their relationship with an anxious friend in the pandemic. They just didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with all of that anxiety, in addition to their own.
So, how can you support an anxious friend?
It can be hard to know where to begin when supporting someone who is anxious – especially as we all experience anxiety differently, and at varying levels. Not everyone has lots of people they can rely on for support, either.
A good place to start is by stopping and specifically asking your friend (or loved one) what they might want or need, says psychotherapist and member of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, Rakhi Chand.
This could be a distraction – why not chat about something that doesn’t involve the timeframe for a coronavirus vaccine or the state of American politics? – or it could just be offering a listening ear.

Some of the best support you can offer is letting your friend know you’re there to support them, and you can understand and empathize with how they are feeling, says psychotherapist Lucy Fuller. But it can be “very difficult” to be in the presence of someone who is feeling really anxious when you yourself are feeling that way, she adds.

If this resonates with you, it might be helpful to ask yourself what you need in a given moment. Chand says, for example, that sometimes she knows she needs fresh air or exercise to take her mind off concerns, and at other times she needs to sit and dissect the issues with her loved one.
Don’t dismiss your own anxiety in the process, she adds. “I think many of us are good at subtly dismissing ourselves by ending sentences with things like ‘but I’m really lucky, lots of people have it much worse.’ Whilst perspective is good, notice where you are on a spectrum of dismissing yourself. Too much of dismissing your anxiety won’t help it ultimately.”
Be gentle on yourself if you know you just haven’t got the bandwidth at that time, on that particular day, to shoulder someone else’s concerns. And do feel free to let them know that – albeit kindly.
“I would suggest being honest and letting them know that you are sorry it is so difficult for them, but that you are also on a cliff edge and can’t cope with it all right now,” suggests Fuller. “Comfort might be gained from just being together, even not talking.”
One way of doing this might be taking a walk together in natural and beautiful surroundings (a forest perhaps, along the coast, or even around the block or park) so you’re both moving away from the biggest points of stress for an hour.
“Try to share the activity of taking in the surroundings and being in the moment,” says Fuller. “There can be comfort gained from being in the presence of someone you love or have great respect for, without sharing words, but experiencing a parallel sense of calm.”
It’s also worth noting that if you are regularly finding you simply can’t deal with a friend’s anxieties because you feel under a lot of strain, it may be a sign that you too should seek some help. “If you regularly haven’t got space to support or listen to them then maybe it’s time to speak to a professional,” says Chand.
anxiety
What not to do
Therapists generally advise against trying to fix the problem for your friend – unless they specifically ask for your advice. The listening is more important.
“Often the last thing people need when they are feeling wobbly is for someone they rely on to try to fix the problem, or tell them what they ‘should’ be doing in order to make themselves feel better,” says Fuller. “It isn’t always as simple as that, so by coming supportively ‘alongside’ someone who is experiencing emotional difficulties is a very comforting way of supporting them.”
Telling a friend that you know how they feel isn’t usually helpful either, adds Fuller, “as it takes away the seriousness of the emotional condition that they are experiencing”.
Similarly, she cautions against your friendship catch-ups turning into an “anxiety competition” – which can develop, consciously or subconsciously.
“To say or suggest to someone that they don’t feel as bad as you diminishes their experience and can shame them into thinking that it isn’t safe to share their feelings with you,” she says. So best not to go down that route.
While venting is a “very healthy and important way to alleviate stress and anxiety,” ultimately if either of you need to vent more and you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by everything, doing so to a professional in person or using a mental health helpline might be a good solution.
This story originally appeared in HuffPost UK.
By Natasha Hinde        11/12/2020

How To De-clutter Your Life
And Reduce Anxiety In 10 Steps

You don’t need Marie Kondo to save you.

Last summer, mere months after swearing that I wasn’t going to have a second baby, I found out I was having a second baby. Oh, universe.

Of all the varied emotions (most of them happy, for the record) I felt over “li’l surprise,” as we’ve come to call him, one of the most prevalent was panic over how to fit him in our two-bedroom, already overflowing, toddler-dominated townhouse. Like, actually, where is this baby going to go? A drawer? It might be a drawer.

This panic quickly morphed to full-fledged anxiety over the clutter I find myself surrounded by on a daily basis. Toys everywhere. An entirely unusable basement thanks to boxes we never unpacked from our last move. A shame-closet so stuffed with junk we can’t even open the door.

When I was about 12 weeks pregnant, I booked an appointment with my therapist to discuss my feelings about bringing another baby into the world. I spent $160/hour crying to her about the state of my basement.

It was time to to act. For the baby, who deserves more than a drawer to call his own, and for my own mental health.

Clutter really is linked to anxiety
Clutter and anxiety go together like boozy date nights and surprise pregnancies: kind of inevitable.

“Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives,” psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote in Psychology Today.

The negative effect of clutter is especially prevalent among women, the New York Times notes, citing a 2019 study that found a cluttered home is a stressful home. Another study from 2010 found that women who perceived their homes as messy or cluttered had increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) throughout the day.

But, as Carter explains in Psychology Today, clutter is actually one of the easiest sources of life stress to fix — much easier than fixing a stressful job or relationship issues, for instance. You just have to do it.

It took work. It took time. But I am pleased to say I have significantly reduced the clutter in my house and my mind over the last several months. Here’s how I did it, and how you can, too:

1. Pick one project at a time
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by de-cluttering your entire house, so break it up into bite-sized pieces. Pick one project, such as going through your closet and donating everything you never wear. Then bask in the glory of finishing something.

“This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little,” Carter notes.

Even just taking a single night off from Netflix will give you two to three hours, which is plenty of time to tackle that junk drawer full of used batteries and dead pens.

2. Be ruthless
Adopt a stone-cold attitude. Now is not the time to weep over that genius essay you wrote in Grade 4. If you don’t use it, and there’s little sentimental value, give it away or toss it.

Here is a random sample of just some of the crap from my house I either threw out, recycled, or donated over the last few months:

  • About 300 books
  • Two bookshelves
  • Dozens of kitchen appliances I have never used, such as an egg steamer (??)
  • The elliptical machine, nicknamed “El Bastardo” that has doubled as a laundry hanger for at least five years
  • My ex’s guitar (sorry)
  • Dozens of giant photo frames or framed art we were never actually going to hang again.
  • All of my impractical shoes. I’m about to be a mom of two, so let’s get real
  • An entire cupboard full of bath and beauty products I’ve never or barely used
  • An antique steamer trunk from the foot of the bed that my husband tripped over every. single. night.

3. Join a ‘Buy Nothing’ group
As satisfying as it is to drop off car loads of stuff at the Salvation Army or Value Village, chances are your neighbourhood has a “Buy Nothing” group where people will come to your house and take your stuff away, no questions asked!

That antique steamer trunk I mentioned? A mom in my neighbourhood took it, gave it to her pirate-obsessed son, and now he has his own treasure trunk. YARR!

4. Donate books
Yeah, I know. This one can be controversial for book lovers. And I am one, so I get it.

If you have the space, and don’t consider books clutter, great. But if you have a basement overflowing with multiple copies of Memoirs of a Geisha and every psychology textbook from your undergrad, it might be time to let go.

And let go I did. I asked my husband to do the same and we parsed it down to a meaningful collection.

And you know what? It didn’t even hurt. I’m happy thinking about other people finding joy in the books that were just collecting dust in my basement.

5. Invest in furniture that doubles as storage
Out of sight, out of mind. Consider investing in a piece of furniture that doubles as storage. I got this storage ottoman from Ikea, and now all of my son’s toy trains and tracks have a place to live other than my living room floor.

You can also re-purpose existing furniture for storage. One of my (now-empty) square bookshelves is now a handy toy shelf in my son’s playroom.

6. Look critically at the space you do have and how it can be used better
This one was huge for me, and important for anyone living in a small space. Instead of pining for more room (we very nearly moved), look critically at how your current space can be better utilized. For me, that meant tackling the biggest stressor of all … my basement.

After, many, many trips to Value Village and weeks spent sorting, I morphed my previously unusable basement into a playroom for my toddler. This allowed us to move all of his toys cluttering my living room, thus creating usable space (for me!) upstairs.


Suddenly, I could breathe again.

I gave my bedroom a similar makeover. We don’t have a third bedroom to turn into a nursery for this little nugget, but we do have a pretty large master. After giving away the steamer trunk, half my clothes, and moving a few decorative lamps, the back end of our room is now the “nursery.”


We’re ready for you, li’l surprise!

7. Rotate toys
Did you know kids get overwhelmed by having too much “stuff,” too? A 2017 study found that kids with too many toys get easily distracted and have lower-quality playtime. Fewer toys lead to more, focused creative play.

Researchers suggest that parents pack away most of the children’s toys, and rotate them a few at a time.

8. De-clutter your schedule
Congrats, your house is looking more like a house and less like an emporium of crap! But there’s still more de-cluttering you could do.

If you’re anything like me, you spend your weekends shuttling your kids to museums, drop ins, classes … anything to keep busy! But now that I have a house I can actually stand to spend time in, we’ve started embracing slow weekends at home, and everyone is better for it.

Send your kid to the playroom. Do an art project. Make pancakes together. You’ll all feel calmer when you use your down-time to actually relax.

9. De-clutter your socials
While you’re bettering your life, how about cleaning up your social media? Unfollow any accounts you don’t really care about (like all those baby product accounts you followed just to enter free giveaways), so that you’re more likely to see updates from those you do care about.

Take stock of how many online parenting groups you’re in (I’m in about 37, no joke). Mute the ones you don’t really need nor care to see on a daily basis.

Finally, if you’re doing any hate follows (we’re all guilty of this, right?), consider letting go. You live your life, little miss perfect mommy blogger we only follow to hate, and we’ll live ours. Go in peace. Enjoy your home-grown, organic mung beans.

10. De-clutter your mind
Your house, schedule, and social media are all cleaned up. All that’s left to tackle now is your mind (oh, just that?). Embracing mindfulness is a great way to help you roll with the punches, be more present, and control your reactions, parenting expert Alyson Schafer notes.

Here are some great apps to get you started:

  • Dan Harris’s 10% Happier
  • Sam Harris’s Waking Up
  • Meditation Timer
  • Calm
By Natalie Stechyson         01/06/2020


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11 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” 

– Carl Jung

Bouncing back is a concept well understood in the context of recovering from a sports injury. Following favorite players’ comeback stories fills fans with inspiration, encourages perseverance in pursuit of personal goals, and fosters a sense of self-confidence, like we can do it if they can. Cultivating resilience in the face of all life’s challenges is a proactive way of dealing with the unexpected, the upsets and disappointments, the pitfalls and successes in life, including how to cope with trauma, chronic pain, adversity and tragedy.

Resilience: What It’s All About

An article in Forbes defines resilience as “the capacity for stress-related growth” and states that resilience has two parts related to the way you bounce back and grow:

  • From big work or life adversity and trauma
  • From dealing with daily hassles and stress

A study in Health Psychology showed that the frequency and intensity of repeated or chronic everyday life strains is strongly associated with overall health and illness, even more so than major life events.

A 2013 study found that exposure to chronic frequent negative emotion and the inability to process daily stress exacts a long-term toll on mental health.

Resilience, say researchers in an article published in Trauma, Violence & Abuse, can manifest either as “prosocial behaviors or pathological adaptation depending on the quality of the environment.” If individuals suffering from lasting effects of trauma and adversity have access to resources that help them cope, they will be more likely to develop prosocial behaviors that may facilitate healing.

Rolbieki et al. (2017) explored resilience among patients living with chronic pain and found that they showed resiliency in four ways: developing a sense of control (actively seeking information and conferring with their doctor to confirm his/her recommendations; actively engaging in both medical and complementary treatment; making social connections and exhibiting acceptance of pain and positive effect.

One surprising finding is that chronic stress accelerates aging at the cellular level – in the body’s telomeres. These are the repeating segments of non-coding DNA at the end of chromosomes. Scientists have discovered that telomeres can be lengthened or shortened – so the goal is to have more days of renewal of cells than destruction or wear and tear on them.

Researchers suggest resilience should be regarded as an emotional muscle, one that can be strengthened and cultivated. Dr. Dennis Charney, co-author of “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenge,” says people can weather and recover from trauma by developing and incorporating 10 resilience skills, including facing fear, optimism and social support. Dr. Charney, resilience researcher and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, was shot as he exited a deli. Following the shooting, Dr. Charney faced a long and difficult recovery. The resilience researcher himself had to employ strategies of coping he’d studied and taught.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that resilience isn’t a trait that people either have or don’t. Instead, resilience “involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

resilient

Ways to Cultivate Resilience

Among the varied ways to develop and cultivate resilience, some are more self-evident than others, yet each is worth a try when attempting to weather life’s challenges.

  1. Act. Even small steps add to a sense of accomplishment, of being proactive instead of reactive. Start with something you feel confident you can do and ask for help if you need it. There’s a lot to be said about self-empowerment when you act in your own best interests. After all, no one else can act for you.
  2. Add to coping resources. Everyone can benefit from having a toolkit of effective coping resources. Combat stress, depression, anxiety and other emotional, psychological and physical issues and conditions through meditation, mindful yoga, exercise and whatever helps you relax, including reading, music, doing puzzles, painting, writing and more.
  3. Embrace flexibility. Instead of regarding your situation as no-win, steer towards an attitude of flexibility. Learn the art of compromise, as in, “I may not be able to run a marathon, yet I can manage a walk in the neighborhood with friends.” In addition, when running into fatigue or pain that prevents you from continuing, congratulate yourself on your effort and the fact that you acted to improve your resilience. Over time, you’ll get stronger and be able to do more, thus adding to your resilience and helping to improve your overall physical and mental health.
  4. Practice optimism. Science says that some optimism is genetic, while some is learned. You can train yourself with practice in positive self-thinking to see opportunity instead of a dead-end, to view a glass as half full instead of half empty. There’s also truth in self-fulfilling attitudes. If you believe you’ll be successful in overcoming adversity, you’re more likely to succeed. The opposite is also true: If you think you’ll fail, you probably will.
  5. Take advantage of support. When you need help, it’s OK to ask for it. In fact, when you know you have support available and are willing to use it, you’re exercising prosocial behavior. Similarly, when you can do so, offer your support to others who may need it.
  6. Avoid personalizing. There’s no point in engaging in blame or endlessly thinking about your situation. Besides being counter-productive, it makes you feel worse. Make use of some of the healthy coping measures you’ve successfully used before and stop ruminating about what happened to you.
  7. Regard the setback/disappointment as temporary. Nothing lasts forever, not even life-altering events, trauma, adversity and pain. You can navigate through this turbulent and emotionally trying time by realizing that this is temporary, and things will get better with your active involvement in your healing process.
  8. Write your new story. Psychiatrists and psychologists call this “reframing” and it refers to changing your story to focus on the opportunities revealed. For example, say you’ve returned from active deployment in a war zone with extensive physical and psychological injuries. Instead of remaining steeped in the negative aspects of your experience, allow yourself to center on other senses, traits, skills and resources you have at your disposal – your empathy, understanding, ability to solve problems, a wide support network, loving family and close friends.
  9. Cultivate gratitude. When you are grateful and actively cultivate gratitude, you are taking advantage of a basic part of resilience and in contentment in life. The more you develop gratitude, the more resilient you’ll become.
  10. Remind yourself of other victories. This may be an intensely challenging time for you, a time when failures and negativity seem paramount and inevitable. Now is when you must remind yourself of your past successes, examples of seemingly impossible hurdles you’ve overcome, victories you’ve scored. This serves as self-reminder that you’ve come back from adversity before. You can do it again.
  11. Enhance spirituality. Religion and spirituality have been shown as predictors of resilience in various populations studied, including returning war veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma sufferers, children and adults who experience abuse or violence, patients enduring chronic pain. Prayer, self-reflection, communicating with a Higher Power serves as a healing balm to many who otherwise may resort to negative coping behaviors, such as drinking and drug use.

Last medically reviewed on April 5, 2018

source: psychcentral.com


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The 4 Steps That Will Increase Happiness, According To A New Study

Researchers believe these daily habits will train your brain to achieve better overall well-being. (Worth a try, right?)

Researchers believe they’ve cracked the code when it comes to achieving overall emotional and mental wellness through four key pillars.

This past year has been an excruciating one for millions of North Americans, and our collective well-being has taken a serious hit. A majority of adults in the United States say their mental health is worse now than it was pre-pandemic. Feelings of isolation are up. A majority of North American adults report feeling overwhelmed by their current stress levels.

Against that bleak backdrop — and given that COVID-19 case numbers are still reaching record highs, even as vaccines have arrived— it seems silly, almost, to think about cultivating emotional well-being. Now? Really? And most importantly, how?!

A research paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers a mental training plan that its authors call the “how” of well-being. Their findings suggest there are four key behaviors that tend to contribute most to overall satisfaction. And they see their plan as a way in which people who already feel relatively healthy can cultivate mental wellness on a daily basis.

“It’s a more hopeful view of well-being,” study researcher Cortland Dahl of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds, a cross-disciplinary research institute, told HuffPost. “It’s the idea that you can take active steps that improve well-being, very much so in the way that you might take steps to improve physical health.”

Of course anyone grappling with severe stress, anxiety or other mental health concerns should absolutely reach out to a qualified mental health professional.

Looking to be more deliberate about training your brain to cultivate mental and emotional well-being? Here are the four basic pillars of the plan, and some simple steps you can start taking right away.

Step 1: Cultivate Awareness — And ‘Meta-awareness’

Awareness is a “heightened, flexible attentiveness to your environmental and internal cues,” according to the Center for Healthy Minds ― which basically means your surroundings as well as your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.

And studies do show that people with heightened awareness tend to have better overall well-being. Also, being distracted can lead to feelings of stress and unhappiness.

One simple tactic that will help you achieve this? Close your eyes and focus on the act of taking 10 breaths.

Another option? “One thing I like to do is when I’m doing dishes, I’ll notice the sounds, I’ll feel the sensations,” Dahl said.

The new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research — which pulls from a range of studies from the worlds of neuroscience, meditation traditions and more — suggests that “meta-awareness” is important, too. So it’s not only important to be aware; it’s also important to be aware that you’re being aware. Ultimately, cultivating meta-awareness helps you to deliberately direct and sustain your attention, the authors argue, rather than being pulled in by “distractors.”

Making a small effort to connect with friends, loved ones and colleagues via Zoom, email or text can help you tap into deeper feelings of kinship.

smile

Step 2: Cultivate Connection

Forging and strengthening a sense of togetherness is certainly a difficult goal amid COVID-19. But making a small effort to connect with friends, loved ones and colleagues via Zoom, email or text can be enough to help you tap into deeper feelings of kinship as the pandemic continues.

The researchers also say that simply cultivating feelings of kindness toward others can be enough to help boost your sense of connection — regardless of whether the person on the receiving end even knows you’re thinking about them.

They cite several studies and pilot programs that suggest kindness meditation programs can lower feelings of distress and boost positive feelings. There is even some preliminary evidence that these types of practices may help lessen implicit bias.

“You can start with a simple appreciation practice,” Dahl said. That might entail bringing a friend or loved one into your mind, then consciously focusing on the things you really cherish about them.

Step 3: Practice Insight

The researchers define insight as having self-knowledge about how your own emotions, thoughts and beliefs shape your sense of who you think you are.

And working to develop this kind of insight can empower you to challenge the beliefs you’ve held about yourself that you may have thought were immutable, Dahl explained. He cited a personal example, describing how he used to be deeply unsettled by public speaking and believed this was just an unchangeable fact of who he was.

“Instead of having this kind of constant judgment, we can get curious about our own inner worlds,” Dahl said.

One practical, real-world way to to do that is to simply notice when a negative thought crops up, and be inquisitive, the researchers wrote. Stop and ask yourself: Where is this thought coming from? Is it based in any assumptions?

Make an effort to notice how even some of the most mundane activities you do every day are connected to your core values. For example, doing the dishes might be an act of generosity toward those you love.

Step 4: Connect With Your Purpose

You don’t have to try and orient every day toward some far-reaching sense of purpose with a “capital P,” Dahl said. But it can be worthwhile to spend time thinking about your deep core values. Then make an effort to notice how even some of the most mundane activities you do every day are connected to them.

For example, doing the dishes or cooking a meal at the end of a long day might be an act of generosity toward those you love. Signing on for your “fifth Zoom meeting of the day” may help connect you to a career that you find meaningful.

Research has shown that having a larger sense of purpose in life is linked to positive health outcomes ― from resilience in the face of trauma to overall lower risk of death.

And ultimately, these four habits should help provide a clearer framework for people looking to improve their mental well-being and wondering how to start. If connecting with your sense of purpose every day doesn’t necessarily click with you right off the bat, for example, try something else.

“We think of this as the ‘eat your fruits and vegetables of mental health,’” said Christy Wilson-Mendenhall, a scientist at the Center for Healthy Minds who was also a researcher on the new paper.

The goal is to find what really works for you and that — crucially — “becomes easy to integrate into everyday life,” she said.

Catherine Pearson     12/30/2020

source: www.huffingtonpost.ca


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8 Everyday Tools For Fighting Depression

Eight exercise for developing serenity and calm.

Teaching people to focus on positive emotions helps them deal with stress, new research finds.

People were taught classic positive psychology exercises such as keeping a gratitude journal, recognising positive events each day and doing small acts of kindness.

Together, the training helped reduce people’s anxiety and depression over the six weeks of the study.

The researchers focused on 170 caregivers for people with dementia.

Half were put in a control group, while the rest were encouraged to focus on their positive emotions.

People were taught eight skills:

  1. Practice a small act of kindness each day and recognise the power it has to increase positive emotions.
  2. Set a simple and attainable goal for each day and note down progress.
  3. Savour a positive event through journalling or discussing it with someone.
  4. Spot at least one positive event each day.
  5. List a personal strength and how you have used it recently.
  6. Use mindfulness to pay attention to daily experiences.
  7. Identify a daily stressor and reframe it as a positive event.
  8. Keep a gratitude journal.

Professor Judith Moskowitz, the study’s first author, said:

“The caregivers who learned the skills had less depression, better self-reported physical health, more feelings of happiness and other positive emotions than the control group.”

The results showed that those who learned the positive psychology exercises experienced a 7 percent drop in depression scores and 9 percent drop in anxiety.

This was enough to move people from being moderately depressed to being within the ‘normal’ range.

Professor Moskowitz chose dementia caregivers as the disease is on the rise:

“Nationally we are having a huge increase in informal caregivers.

People are living longer with dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, and their long-term care is falling to family members and friends.

This intervention is one way we can help reduce the stress and burden and enable them to provide better care.”

One participant in the study commented:

“Doing this study helped me look at my life, not as a big neon sign that says, ‘DEMENTIA’ in front of me, but little bitty things like, ‘We’re having a meal with L’s sister, and we’ll have a great visit.’

I’m seeing the trees are green, the wind is blowing.

Yeah, dementia is out there, but I’ve kind of unplugged the neon sign and scaled down the size of the letters.”

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. 

The study was published in the journal Health Psychology (Moskowitz et al., 2019).

source: Psyblog

 

depression

 

Research Connects Positive Thinking With Reduced Memory Loss

A new study reveals that positive thinking may help reduce memory loss as people age. It seems the people who look at life through rose-colored glasses may have the right idea after all. This study adds to mounting research about the role of a good attitude, or ‘positive effect,’ in healthy aging.

The study, published on October 22, 2020, in the journal Psychological Science, found that people with an optimistic attitude have better memory as they age. Most people want to retain good memories in life, but the ability to do so largely depends on emotional and physical health. While many factors come into play in regards to the strength of our memory, it turns out being cheerful can reduce memory loss.

THE STUDY

For the study, a team of researchers analyzed data from a 9-year longitudinal study involving 991 middle-aged and older U.S. adults. They all participated in a national study conducted at three separate times: between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014. In the questionnaires, the participants reported on various positive emotions they’d experienced in the past 30 days.

In the last two assessments, the researchers also gave the participants tests to observe the strength of their memory. For these assessments, participants had to recall words right after they’d been said to them, and again after 15 minutes passed. The researchers analyzed how positive thinking could reduce memory loss, taking age, gender, education, depression, negative outlooks, and extroversion into account.

“Our findings showed that memory declined with age,” said Claudia Haase, senior author of the paper and an associate professor at Northwestern University.

“However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep memory decline over the course of almost a decade,” added Emily Hittner, the paper’s lead author and a Ph.D. graduate of Northwestern University.

In the future, they hope to do further studies on what life factors may improve positive affect, and therefore reduce memory loss. For example, better physical health and stronger relationships may play a role in one’s overall happiness.

OTHER WAYS TO REDUCE MEMORY LOSS

 In addition to thinking positively, other lifestyle factors can help improve your memory:

1 – GET PLENTY OF EXERCISE.

Exercise improves every aspect of health, not just our physical appearance and muscle-to-fat ratio. You will increase your endurance and strength, plus give your brain muscles a run for their money as well. Since the mind and body are inarguably linked, we must take care of them both.

Lack of exercise can lead to developing health problems such as obesity. A growing body of evidence links obesity and all the health complications that go along with it to increased memory loss. Furthermore, obesity heightens the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life.

Researchers believe this may occur because obesity negatively affects brain structure and volume. Overweight and obesity cause the hippocampus to shrink, which leads to cognitive decline. Also, the same proteins in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s have been found in those with severe obesity.

Several studies show how regular exercise may help reduce memory loss. For example, studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can result in a larger hippocampus. This area of the brain aids in learning and memory; therefore, a larger brain can support a stronger memory.

2 – PRIORITIZE SLEEP.

Unfortunately, in our “24/7” society, many of us suffer from some level of sleep deprivation. When we run on little sleep, it starts to affect our cognitive function, including memory. Deep, quality sleep helps us consolidate and sort through memories, so without enough REM sleep, our memory suffers. No matter what your schedule looks like, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and make sure to keep it consistent.

3 – EAT A HEALTHY DIET.

What we put into our bodies not only affects our physical health, but our mental performance as well. Eating too many processed, high-calorie foods can lead to a feeling of brain fog, impairing our memory. Experts say that if you want to reduce memory loss, you should include these foods in your diet:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon
  • Blueberries
  • Turmeric
  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dark chocolate (near 100% cacao, little or no sugar added)
  • Nuts such as walnuts
  • Oranges
  • Green tea
  • Coffee

4 – DO BRAIN GAMES AND PUZZLES.

Just like any other muscle in your body, your brain needs regular exercise to perform at its best. Do crossword puzzles or other brain games which require you to jog your memory. Instead of passing your time scrolling through social media or watching Netflix, take a few minutes a day to challenge your brain. Not only will you possibly learn something new, but you will reduce memory loss in the process.

5 – WATCH YOUR SUGAR CONSUMPTION.

This tip will help both your physical health and your memory. Just like berries and nuts can improve your memory, unhealthy foods like sugar can hinder it. Studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar have difficulty remembering things and have a heightened risk of developing dementia. Even if the person doesn’t have diabetes, eating too much sugar can hinder memory and brain health.

Researchers believe that, once again, the hippocampus starts to malfunction with too much sugar intake. While it requires a certain amount of glucose to function, too much of it can cause the opposite effect.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON RESEARCH THAT SHOWS POSITIVE THINKING CAN REDUCE MEMORY LOSS

Positive thinking enhances many aspects of life, from our relationships to our physical health. Researchers have found that optimism may help reduce memory loss as well, perhaps due to stronger pathways in the brain. While more studies need to be done about the relationship between memory and positive thinking, this shows great promise for future research.

Since thoughts create our reality, it seems vitally important that we pay attention to what goes on inside our heads. Positive thoughts lead to better outcomes in life, so make sure to take care of your mental health.

source: www.powerofpositivity.com


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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
sleep

 

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