Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

The Simple Treatment That Beats Antidepressants

Two-thirds of people with major depression were no longer depressed after this treatment.

A brisk walk three times a week can actually beat antidepressant medication in treating major depression, research finds.

The results come from a study on three groups of elderly people with major depressive disorder.

One group were given the exercise, another given antidepressant medication and the third both.

The results showed that all three groups improved the same amount.

Professor James Blumenthal, the study’s first author, said:

“One of the conclusions we can draw from this is that exercise may be just as effective as medication and may be a better alternative for certain patients.”

The results showed that after exercise almost two-thirds of participants were no longer depressed after 16 weeks.

One of the problems with exercise is that it may take a little longer to take effect.

Professor Blumenthal said:

“While we don’t know why exercise confers such a benefit, this study shows that exercise should be considered as a credible form of treatment for these patients.
Almost one-third of depressed patients in general do not respond to medications, and for others, the medications can cause unwanted side effects.
Exercise should be considered a viable option.”

Exercise could be particularly beneficial because people are taking an active role, rather than passively taking a pill, Professor Blumenthal said:

“Simply taking a pill is very passive.
Patients who exercised may have felt a greater sense of mastery over their condition and gained a greater sense of accomplishment.
They felt more self-confident and had better self-esteem because they were able to do it themselves, and attributed their improvement to their ability to exercise.
These findings could change the way some depressed patients are treated, especially those who are not interested in taking anti-depressants.
While these medications have been proven to be effective, many people want to avoid the side effects or are looking for a more ‘natural’ way of feeling better.”

The antidepressant tested in the study was sertraline, which is marketed as Zoloft.

The study was published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine (Blumenthal et al., 1999).

 source: PsyBlog
Advertisements


1 Comment

Three Strategies For Bringing More Kindness Into Your Life

Countless studies link kindness and generosity to greater life satisfaction.

Greater Good Science Center    By Juliana Breines, Ph.D.    10/04/2015 

One of the best ways to increase our own happiness is to do things that make other people happy. In countless studies, kindness and generosity have been linked to greater life satisfaction, stronger relationships, and better mental and physical health—generous people even live longer.

What’s more, the happiness people derive from giving to others creates a positive feedback loop: The positive feelings inspire further generosity—which, in turn, fuels greater happiness. And research suggests that kindness is truly contagious: Those who witness and benefit from others’ acts of kindness are more likely to be kind themselves; a single act of kindness spreads through social networks by three degrees of separation, from person to person to person to person.

But just because we have the capacity for kindness, and reap real benefits from it, doesn’t mean that we always act with kindness. We may be too busy, distracted, or wrapped up in our own concerns to pay close attention to others’ needs or actively seek out opportunities to help. Or we’re just out of practice: Researchers have argued that kindness is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened through repeated use.

How do we strengthen kindness? Researchers have identified a number of effective exercises, and many of them are collected on the Greater Good Science Center’s new website, Greater Good in Action (GGIA), which features the top research-based activities for fostering happiness, kindness, connection, and resilience.

Here I highlight GGIA’s 10 core kindness practices, grouped into three broad categories.

1. How to Cultivate Feelings of Kindness

Kind behavior comes more naturally when we’re feeling a sense of compassion and connection with others. This first set of practices focuses on cultivating these feelings.

The Feeling Connected practice involves thinking about a time when you felt a strong connection to another person—through a meaningful conversation, say, or by experiencing a great loss or success or historic event together—and describing that experience in writing. A 2011 study led by researcher Louisa Pavey in the United Kingdom found that participants who completed this exercise reported increases in feelings of concern for others and stronger intentions to carry out a number of generous acts over the next six weeks, such as giving money to charity and helping a stranger in need.

How does this practice increase kindness? Research suggests that feeling connected to others satisfies a fundamental psychological need to belong; when this need is unmet, people are more likely to focus on their own needs rather than caring for others.

Similar to Feeling Connected is the Feeling Supported practice, which involves thinking about the qualities of the people you turn to when you’re distressed, then recalling a time when you were comforted by one of them. A 2005 study led by Mario Mikulincer, dean of the school of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, found that people who completed this writing exercise, compared with those who wrote more generically about a colleague or acquaintance, subsequently reported greater compassion and willingness to help a person in distress. This simple practice is powerful because it increases “attachment security,” a state that involves feelings of trust and comfort and is especially helpful when we’re feeling threatened or insecure. It can also remind us of the kinds of qualities we want to embody when kindly supporting others.

Another excellent way to tap into feelings of compassion and concern for others is to take an Awe Walk, which involves going for a stroll somewhere that seems vast and perspective-shifting, and makes us feel connected to something greater than ourselves. In a 2015 study led by Paul Piff, then a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, some participants stood in a grove of towering eucalyptus trees and gazed up for just one minute; other participants looked away from the trees, at a building. The tree gazers were subsequently more likely to help someone in need and less likely to feel that they were superior to others.

Finally, you can try a Compassion Meditation. This simple—though not necessarily easy—technique involves paying attention to your breathing as you extend feelings of goodwill toward a loved one, yourself, a neutral person, and even an enemy. Results of a 2013 study led by Helen Weng, then at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, showed that participants who performed the compassion meditation for two weeks demonstrated more generous behavior, donating more money to a victim of unfair treatment, and they also showed greater activity in brain regions associated with understanding the suffering of others and regulating emotions in response to pictures of suffering. (You can find audio of a guided compassion meditation on the GGIA website, along with the script for this meditation.)

kindness_wisdom

 

2. How to Boost the Happiness We Get from Kindness

Another way to increase the amount of kindness we perform over the long terms sounds simple: make a concerted effort to perform more kind and generous acts in the short term.

Intentionally practicing kindness in our everyday lives, even on days when we’re not in a particularly generous mood, can go a long way toward turning kindness into a habit. That’s largely because of the way kindness breeds happiness: The good feelings serve to reinforce our kind acts and make us more likely to want to perform them in the future.

Practicing Random Acts of Kindness is a good place to start. This practice involves performing five acts of kindness in one day and then writing about the experience. They can be anything from bringing a meal to a sick friend to giving up your seat on the bus to donating blood to buying a coffee for the person in line behind you at a cafe. For ideas, consider acts of kindness that you’ve witnessed or received in the past, and check out this Buzzfeed list of 101 suggestions. Random acts of kindness not only lift our spirits in the moment; they also have the potential to alter the way we feel about ourselves and increase healthy forms of self-esteem.

Research suggests that not all acts of kindness are created equal, however. Many factors can influence whether and how these acts bring us psychological benefits. The Making Giving Feel Good practice outlines three strategies that can maximize the positive effects of generosity.

The first strategy is to make giving a choice. Research suggests that when we feel obligated to give—such as when we feel cornered by an aggressive request—we are less likely to enjoy it. It’s important to give yourself the option to say no, and to give others the same option when requesting help. The second strategy is to make a connection with the recipient of your kindness—for example by taking a colleague out to lunch rather than just giving a gift certificate. The third strategy is to take the initiative to learn about the impact of your generosity, which can elicit contagious feelings of joy. For example, see this video of a bone marrow donor meeting the little girl whose life he saved.

3. How to Inspire Kindness in Others

It’s important to find ways to boost your own kindness. But arguably the greatest good we can do in the world comes from finding ways to increase kindness in others. That’s what the next set of practices are designed to do.

On GGIA, we provide three research-based strategies for educators, parents, and leaders of all kinds to help others overcome barriers to kindness and generosity. The first is to create Reminders of Connectedness in a home, office, or classroom. These reminders can be something as simple as a quote evoking shared goals, words like “community,” or a picture conveying warmth or friendships.

The second involves Putting a Human Face on Suffering: Being able to identify distinct, specific victims of a problem—and learning about their personal stories—can make that problem more vivid, strike an emotional chord, and thus motivate people to help.

The third, Shared Identity, involves forging a sense of common humanity across group boundaries. Reminding people to see the basic humanity that they share with those who might seem different from them can help overcome fear and distrust and promote cooperation. Even small similarities, like appreciating sports, can foster a greater sense of kinship. (An overview of these three strategies is also provided in the Eliciting Altruism practice.)

Finally, the practice for Encouraging Kindness in Kids offers four specific techniques to bring out children’s natural propensity for kindness and generosity. These techniques include avoiding external rewards for kind behavior, so that kids get to experience the feeling that kindness is its own reward, praising kids’ character instead of their behavior so they come to see kindness as an essential part of who they are, and modeling kindness in your own behavior, since actions tend to speak louder than words when it comes to nurturing generosity.

Becoming a kinder person—and nurturing kindness in your children and students—isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes practice to turn your best intentions into concrete actions. We hope the kindness exercises on Greater Good in Action provide an effective way to start building that habit today.

Juliana Breines, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University. 

This article first appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. In November, GGSC is hosting a summit on Mindfulness and Well-Being at Work; find out more here.


1 Comment

10 Everyday Habits To Make You A Calmer Person

Have you ever taken the time to observe a naturally calm person?

They’re a sight to behold — the way they glide through the day with ease, not rushed and exuding quiet confidence. I imagine you envy them as I do.

Truly calm people are a rare and exotic species that you can learn a lot from. Learn their common behaviors and attitudes, and you too can become an expert in responding to everyday stress and frustrations.

Here are 10 habits of naturally calm people:

1. They choose to walk.

To meetings across town, the shops up the road or to exercise their dog, calm people walk every day.

Get off the bus or train a stop early if you have to. This simple leg-stretching, head-clearing activity is mandatory for serenity.

2. They forgo rushing.

They leave plenty of time to get where they’re going, and they don’t cram too much in. If misadventure strikes, they drop something off their list, reschedule it, or they get there when they get there and apologize graciously.

Rushing disturbs the peace and has no value. Be determined to quit this noxious habit.

3. They prioritize self-care.

Sufficient sleep, good nutrition and physical activity are nonnegotiable for them. These essentials are not sacrificed for a deadline or anything else.

Make them the backbone of your day and you stand a good chance at the composure you crave.

4. They use routines.

Calm people minimize the strain on their working memory by doing some things the same way every day. Morning rituals, weekly wardrobe, meal plans or whatever, much of their day is predetermined.

Operating on autopilot will minimize decision-making and ease day-to-day pressure.

patience-is-the-calm

5. They practice being in the moment.

Most calm buffs meditate, do yoga, tai chi or other formal meditative practice. Others are able to pay attention and be fully present in their own chosen mindful activity.

Choose surfing, gardening or reading with your kids, but be diligent and practice regularly to get the stress reduction effect.

6. They use their phones judiciously.

Calm people are not at the mercy of their phones. They relegate them to their appropriate use as an intermittent tool for work and communication, maybe a source of music or news.

You will not achieve peace or poise in your life while your phone continues to dominate your day.

7. They self-regulate and exercise healthy boundaries.

They are self-aware and responsive to their mental, physical and emotional state. They take breaks, stretch and snack, or let off steam as required. Self-discipline and assertiveness enables them to say no, to ask for help and to stop work at a reasonable hour.

Practice tuning in and asserting your needs within yourself and with others, and enjoy feeling more in control.

8. They expect things to go awry.

Their unflappable nature comes from a deep knowing that life is unpredictable. They do not expect things to go to plan and they are ready to adjust to whatever the day throws their way.

By all means have a plan but be ready to change it at any moment.

9. They connect with the world authentically and meaningfully.

The calm person engages at some point each day in activity that is not about success, money or mere time-passing. An exchange with a stranger, a call with a parent, somewhere, there will be worthwhile connection. In cooking, gardening, any creative pursuit (including parenting and relationship development), somewhere there will be passion and care.

Remember what matters to you and honor it daily.

10. They embrace their small place in the world.

Their greater contentment is borne of their knowing their tiny place in the universe. They remain aware of the world beyond themselves — this prevents self-absorption.

They take their work and responsibilities seriously, but not themselves. They do not carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Along side meditation, service to others (through work, volunteering or caring for another) is a common way to gain this healthy perspective. It breeds self-compassion, gratitude and resilience.

Dedicate a good portion of your day to focusing on others and emulate their steady outlook.

All of these behaviors and attitudes are within your grasp, even though it may not be easy to make them a habit tomorrow — start small and start now and enjoy all the calm you deservedly achieve.

by Jacqueline Stone      March 5, 2015        source: www.mindbodygreen.com


2 Comments

10 “Rules” To Live By To Get Healthier

When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, consistency is key. If you want to stop feeling lethargic and overweight, you have to stop being lazy. Sorry to be blunt. It’s all about creating a consistent lifestyle that promotes healthy eating and movement throughout the day!

I’m a personal trainer, but I am not always a perfect eater. I love pizza — I love bacon on my pizza. When I indulge, I make sure that two out of the three meals I eat that day are still healthy. On days that my body is sore and rundown, I still get up and move. Laying around only makes the soreness worse — get those muscles moving and get a good stretch or foam roll in.

I remind myself that even on my worst days, I can still walk. I can move. I don’t have to just sit around, I can strap on a backpack and walk around Nashville to grab a cup of coffee. Here are the other rules to follow to maintain a consistent, healthy lifestyle:

1. Get at least 10,000 steps every day.

This is the gold standard of consistency. It equals about five miles — here are some ways I make it happen every day:

  • Park far away
  • Use the stairs (want that strong booty, stairs are the best)
  • Walk the dog
  • Pack your lunch so that you can walk during at least half that break

2. Teach your body to be healthy by being consistent.

When you make being healthy a habit, your body know exactly what it’s in for and responds accordingly. If you’re able to stay away from sweets for an extended period, your body won’t crave them as much and when you do eat them, too much sugar will taste horrible! Try a piece of 80 percent dark chocolate for an after dinner treat and use gum to curb cravings.

3. Eat breakfast so that your body knows to be hungry.

Too many people have gotten used to not eating breakfast. It’s SO important! By eating it every day you actually will wake up hungry, and this is a good thing. That means your body is expecting the food and has started your metabolism already.

4. Sweat every day.

Our body’s cooling system is amazing. We shed all the heat by sweating. If you are a consistent trainer, your body knows what’s in store and will start cooling you down immediately. If your body isn’t used to working out, you will find yourself overheating due to your body’s idea of consistency — that you don’t need to sweat because you don’t work out. This will change over time!

5. Think long-term, not short-term.

Dieting provides short-sighted goals — 10-day juice cleanse, 3-day starvation, 30-days carb-free. What you really need is a consistent and fulfilling idea of eating clean and healthy that lasts a lifetime. Lower sugar, lower sodium, no starches in the evening and less booze (sorry).

483b0-walk160x144

6. Be active throughout the day.

One hour at the gym does not make an active lifestyle. Getting to the gym routinely is great and I commend everyone who does it. But saying, “That’s all folks,” for the rest of the day while you sit at a desk, car and couch does not make an active lifestyle. Consistency throughout the day will help you get and stay lean.

7. One workout does not make you strong and one day without weights does not ruin everything.

Consistency can be attained by sticking to your healthy lifestyle 80% of the time. Everyone needs a day to relax from the stress … just don’t let that make you feel guilty — enjoy your life!

8. One meal does not make you healthy and one meal does not make you fat.

When I ask about the meals my clients had the days before our workout together, I will always get a rundown of the healthiest options they chose. Yet they’ll also complain about why they aren’t losing weight. That one salad choice at lunch two days ago will not get you to your goal! Consistently choosing the better option will yield results and also increase your ability to refrain from temptation.

9. Drink water consistently throughout the day so you never feel thirsty.

If you don’t get enough water in your body before your workout, you won’t get as much out of your hard work. Blood brings oxygen to your muscles and brain. Blood is made up of quite a bit of water. If you are not hydrated, it is harder for you to get oxygen to where it needs to be.

The more you sweat, the more water you should drink. If you drink coffee or alcohol, you should also up your water intake.

10. Indulge on special occasions.

For me, this means eating pizza sparingly. Moderation within consistency is the biggest key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


1 Comment

Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health

Set realistic goals

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — and strength training exercises at least twice a week.

As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you can’t set aside that much time, try two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions throughout the day.

Remember, though, it’s OK to start slowly — especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes.

Track your progress

Keeping a record of how many steps you take, the distance you walk and how long it takes can help you see where you started from and serve as a source of inspiration. Just think how good you’ll feel when you see how many miles you’ve walked each week, month or year.

Record these numbers in a walking journal or log them in a spreadsheet or a physical activity app. Another option is to use an electronic device — such as a pedometer — to calculate steps and distance.

walk

Stay motivated

Starting a walking program takes initiative. Sticking with it takes commitment. To stay motivated:

Set yourself up for success. Start with a simple goal, such as, “I’ll take a 10-minute walk during my lunch break.” When your 10-minute walk becomes a habit, set a new goal, such as, “I’ll walk for 20 minutes after work.” Soon you could be reaching for goals that once seemed impossible.

Make walking enjoyable. If you don’t enjoy solitary walks, ask a friend or neighbor to join you. If you’re invigorated by groups, join a health club.

Vary your routine. If you walk outdoors, plan several different routes for variety. If you’re walking alone, be sure to tell someone which route you’re taking.

Take missed days in stride. If you find yourself skipping your daily walks, don’t give up. Remind yourself how good you feel when you include physical activity in your daily routine — and then get back on track.

Once you take that first step, you’re on the way to an important destination — better health.