Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Feeling good doesn’t have to be hard work-it can be as simple as looking at everyday life in a whole new way.
Trying to find joy is a little like learning to drive a stick shift. It really shouldn’t be that difficult. But unless you know what you’re doing, you end up grinding the gears, making a lot of noise-and going exactly nowhere.
It needn’t be that way. In the last several years, positive-psychology researchers have been digging into what really gives us joy. Part of what they found is that there is a genetic component to happiness. But that’s just the beginning. “Feeling good is also a skill you can learn,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., author of The How of Happiness (Penquin). You’ve got to be willing to put forth some effort and maybe feel a little foolish sometimes, but eventually you will get where you’re going. Here’s the best of the latest studies. Put them to good use-you’ll be glad you did.
Loosen Up Your Attitude
SMART START: Keep an open mind and you won’t feel so overwhelmed, say researchers at the University of Rochester, in New York. When you’re freed to respond in a relaxed, less defensive way, you’ll extract the most from each moment, says Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., author of Curious?(William Morrow).
GO FOR GLAD: Train your brain to view things differently by peppering your language with the word “sometimes.” That simple qualifier prevents you from stereotyping situations and people. So instead of just looking for facts to prove your point of view, you’ll take everything as it comes. Less resistance to things as they are makes for a pleasanter day all around.
Make Out Like a Teenager
SMART START: Kissing and hugging boost blood serum proteins that reduce stress and activate the immune system, says Masahiro Matsunaga, Ph.D, who has studied the subject. Practically speaking, this means that you’re happier and less irritable.
GO FOR GLAD: Set aside some private time and kiss your husband in your favorite way for three minutes, then switch to his preferred technique. Ready for the AP course? Pick a mood-passionate, romantic, tender-and communicate all its nuances with only your lips.
Shake Up Your Workday
SMART START: Employees who find more on-the-job excitement have better family relationships, according to a study from Kansas State University. “You’re in a better state of mind and you take it home with you,” says Satoris Culbertson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at KSU.
GO FOR GLAD: Be a hero to your boss by taking over what’s overloading her. The different responsibilities will kick you off autopilot. “Your mind is firing on new things,” says Kimberly Yorio, coauthor of Happy at Work, Happy at Home(Broadway). That same energy will fuel upbeat family interactions later on.
Get With The Moment
SMART START: It’s a fact: Consciously acknowledging and experiencing positive emotions as they’re happening makes you less likely to feel overwhelmed when things get tough. “Noticing good things widens your perspective,” says Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “Then you can see more options and solutions.
GO FOR GLAD: Several times a day, slow down and check in with your touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. Keyed in to your surroundings, enjoying life will become a habit.
Learn Something New
SMART START: Reaching external goals-money, looks, fame-“does not contribute one iota” to feeling good over the long haul, says Edward L. Deci, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. What counts is attaining an internal goal. Activities like developing a talent or serving the community are what increase well-being, satisfaction and self-esteem.
GO FOR GLAD: Do something you’ve always dreamed of-learn Spanish, coach a soccer team or just plan a block party. Instead of focusing on results, though, let yourself really relish the skills and relationships you develop along the way. You’ll be creating a sense of satisfaction you can tap into endlessly.
SMART START: Money can’t buy happiness, but knowing that you’ve got resources creates a greater sense of security, says Kathleen D. Vohs, Ph.D., consumer psychologist at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. In fact, just thinking about it can make you feel less awkward in social situations and better able to withstand physical pain.
GO FOR GLAD: When something you want to do seems too difficult-running a 5K, for example, or chairing a PTA committee-promise yourself a financial gift if you achieve your goal. Knowing there’s $20 waiting can motivate you to move beyond your resistant, says Vohs.
Choose A Feel-Good Mood
SMART START: A study from the University of California, Riverside, found that people who practiced keeping their thoughts optimistic increased their overall sense of well-being. Basically, this means you can train your mind to look on the bright side the same way you train your body for a new sport or yoga position. When you think positively, your life works better.
GO FOR GLAD: Become your own publicist, and, for 15 minutes a week, picture your ideal self. Each time focus on a different facet of your life-marriage, parenthood, job, friends, hobbies, community involvement, physical and mental health-and imagine a best possible scenario coming true. What at first looked impossible will begin to feel attainable, says Lyubomirsky.
SMART START: People who spend on others instead of themselves experience a whole lot more joy. While the reasons for this spending bonus aren’t totally clear, researchers surmise that the benefit comes a few ways: an ego boost; the joy of taking care of someone else; being able to see the direct effect of one’s spending; and building social connections.
GO FOR GLAD: Rather than going out and buying something for family or friends, spring for an experience-a cup of coffee or tea, a few lessons, a trip to a museum or zoo. A focus on doing over having doubles the benefit. “You rarely look back and remember the day you bought something,” says Robert Biswas-Diener, coauthor of Happiness(Wiley-Blackwell). But good experiences create memories you can always draw on.
Invest in your Marriage
SMART START: Lots of things happen in relationships that we can’t control, but if you’re able to stay with your spouse for the long haul, research shows you’re better off. One study found that people who remained married to their first spouse had the best physical and psychological health, reportedly from enjoying an overall sense of security and support.
GO FOR GLAD: Are you convinced you already put a lot of energy into making your spouse happy? Take a closer look-for most people that actually means giving what you’d want rather than what the other person would choose. Think about what he’d really love-tickets to a local sporting event, a movie-marathon with the family, a Saturday without a must-do list-then make it happen.
Spread the Joy
SMART START: Happiness is contagious, says a study in the medical journal BMJ. When you show kindness to a friend, she passes it along to her friend. Even the smallest moment of cheer has a ripple effect, says Nicholas Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., coauthor of Connected(Little,Brown).
GO FOR GLAD: The next time you’re ready to blow up at that woman in the express line with 20 items, smile at her instead or even strike up a conversation. Maybe she’ll go home and be nicer to her kids. For sure, you’ll have spread a little goodwill. And who knows? It may come back around to you one day.
Dump the Downers
There are some mental bad habits that never fail to ruin a good mood. Break them before they pull you in.
Ruminating. You have a problem going round and round in your mind and it might feel like you’re going for genuine insight, but you’re really caught in an endless, unproductive loop. Break out by injecting an upbeat new thought and doing some quick, easy exercise like stretching or going for a walk.
Judging yourself again others. It’s fine to look at people’s achievements to give yourself goals. Measuring your own character and accomplishments against someone else’s, though, can leave you feeling unworthy. Remind yourself that someone can look totally awesome on the outside, but that doesn’t tell you much about what’s going on underneath. Then focus on your own assets and abilities.
Seeing only the negative. When you watch the news or listen to some people talk, you could conclude that everybody’s job is tanking, every marriage is going down in flames and everybody’s kid is in trouble. Before you decide that everything stinks, take a random sampling-friends, relatives, co-workers-and ask how they’re doing. After your reality check, you’ll probably see that while bad things do happen, overall the world tends to be a pretty positive place.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Dr. Tilli Williams is a naturopathic physician in private practice in Washington, D.C. For several years, Dr. Tilli was the medical director of an eating disorders facility in Tucson, Arizona. She has worked extensively with women who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, compulsive overeating and obesity.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
As a naturopathic physician focused on weight management, eating disorders and other chronic health challenges, I am a doctor who uses a holistic approach, treating body, mind and spirit together. In my 12 years of practice, I can sum up my patients’ biggest challenges in taking better care of themselves in two ways:
1. There is no “magic bullet” or “quick fix”
Every day, we encounter messages telling us how we should look and feel, and what we should consume to look and feel this way. They make it sound so simple. But one truth is that there are no quick fixes or magic bullets to health and well‐being. The other truth is that we get to declare our independence. We say who we are, how we should look, how we want to feel.
2. Health begins in our own mind
We have to create new habits to replace the old habits that don’t work for us. We can set priorities and think good thoughts about ourselves. This starts in our own mind. For example, everyone can appreciate the beauty of a sunset or flowers blooming in the spring or birds in flight; we honor the beauty of nature. So what happens when we remember that we’re just as much a part of nature — just as magnificent in our design — as the sun, the flowers and the birds? When we start to see ourselves that way, we find a way to get back in harmony with the natural forces all around us. We start to make decisions about what is really important in our lives and do things that add to our own natural beauty.
And we know that things are shifting when we can look in the mirror and see “what’s right” instead of “what’s wrong.”
Taking care of the basics
Health and vitality don’t come from a pill or bottle. Health is physical, mental and spiritual well‐being. Health is about everything we do — and we can achieve it by taking care of the basic things in life:
• Thinking of “food as medicine.” Consuming whole, nourishing foods and eating in moderation — small, frequent meals throughout the day
• Drinking eight glasses of water daily, avoiding sodas and caffeine
• Getting daily movement or exercise for at least 30 minutes
• Sleeping seven to eight hours each night
• Nurturing and accepting ourselves for the magnificence of who we are
Whether my patients are overweight or underweight, fatigued or depressed, I start with these basic recommendations. I have them incorporate one step at a time while keeping in mind that the “journey” is much more rich and important than the destination. By creating new habits that focus on healthy living, my patients reach their ideal weight, have more energy, decrease anxiety and feel better about themselves. This works for all of us. As family, friends and children see us making healthy changes in our lives, we become an inspiration to them and to ourselves.
Monday, February 01, 2010
On days when it’s hard to see the flower in a field of weeds, try these coping tips:
Spend time with your friends. “Being with other people gets your mind off your problems-as long as your don’t sit around and commiserate,” says Nada Stotland, M.D., former president of the American Psychiatric Association. Talk about what makes you happy, like how well your son is doing in school.
Take action. Avoid feeling helpless by harnessing what’s within your power. “You can’t control the size of your paycheck or the security of your job, but you can take charge of your finances by cutting coupons or renting a movie instead of going to the movie theater,” suggests Phyllis Anastasio, Ph.D., a psychologist at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
Give bad news a break. “Seeing and hearing gloomy news about the economy can make you upset about the future,” says Anastasio. Instead, try to focus on what gives your life meaning: family, friends or spirituality. “And remind yourself that the situation is temporary,” she says. This, too, shall pass.
Nurture yourself. “When you’re stressed, it’s more important than ever to eat nutritious food, exercise and get plenty of rest,” says Dr. Stotland. “By keeping yourself emotionally and physically fit you will be more prepared to meet life’s challenges.”
Sunday, January 31, 2010
The beginning of each new year is about having the opportunity to have a fresh start and a new perspective, and that’s why it is the perfect time to start focusing on your health. From working out to getting more sleep, improving your health takes focus and dedication, but did you know there are specific foods that can help you reach your goals faster? In fact, there are a number of foods that cannot only help you lose weight, but also help you look and feel your best.
The following healthy “super foods” will get you on the right track to looking and feeling younger in no time:
• Fish — According to the American Heart Association, USDA, American Medical Association and American Diabetes Association, people should eat fish twice a week to help improve health — but it can also help you look great! Adding seafood to your diet can help keep you young with its multiple health benefits like heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein and vitamin D. The omega-3 fatty acids in seafood have been shown to serve as an anti-inflammatory agent that may help prevent the skin from premature aging, as well as protect your memory by helping reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (according to a study in the medical journal of the American Academy of Nuerology). It is also low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, so eating fish can help ward off diseases like diabetes and combat obesity.
• Olive Oil — Worried about wrinkles? Try adding olive oil to your diet. According to a study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition, people who had diets high in olive oil showed less signs of aging in the skin. Olive oil also contains polyphenols antioxidants, which have been linked with the prevention of certain diseases associated with age.
• Sunflower Seeds and Tofu — Believe it or not, sunflower seeds can help you keep the grays away. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, gray hairs begin to appear when many people are in their 20s and may be due to a copper deficiency that results in declining melanin production. Sunflower seeds, which are high in copper, may help protect against this loss of melanin. Want to keep your hair looking even younger? Try eating tofu, which includes biotin, a vitamin that may help aid hair growth.
• Blueberries — Memory loss is one of the scarier signs of aging, so fight it off by adding blueberries to your meal regimen. Blueberries contain anti-aging antioxidants that can help prevent free radical damage and improve blood flow, which can benefit the brain. Blueberries also boast the antioxidant anthocyanin that can aid the fruit’s vitamin C potency, helping improve your complexion.
• Water — Drinking plenty of water is essential to health and weight loss. Plus, it can help keep your skin looking younger. That’s because dehydration causes side effects like skin elasticity loss, which will show up on your skin as wrinkles. Aim for eight glasses of water a day and try to cut down on caffeine and alcohol, as they can increase dehydration. You can also mix things up by adding in healthy drinks like green tea and unsweetened fruit juice.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Its little things you can do now that will keep your ticker going strong for life.
“Heart attack? It will never happen to me.” If you’ve ever had this thought, it’s time for a wake-up call: A Harvard study found that 92% of women are in jeopardy of developing cardiovascular disease. “Fortunately, research suggests that your lifestyle-from the friends you interact with to the time you go to bed-has a huge impact on your heart,” says Marie Savard, M.D., a Philadelphia internist. Honor American Heart Month by incorporating these tweaks into your daily routine and you’ll improve your well-being-and slash your risk of becoming a statistic.
1. Be a sodium sleuth. The average woman consumes nearly 50% more than the recommended daily sodium threshold of 2,400 milligrams (mg), raising her risk for high blood pressure. Laying off the salt shaker can help, but it won’t make a huge dent. “Nearly 80% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods,” says Marisa Moore, R.D., an Atlanta nutritionist. Check the nutrition labels on every package: One survey revealed that 3 out of 4 people aren’t aware that breakfast cereals and breads are often sky-high in the mineral.
2. Go out with the girls. Meeting up with your pals may be just as heart-healthy as hitting the gym. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that lonely people had blood pressures that were 10 to 30 points higher than their more sociable counterparts. “Bonding with friends can also keep stress at bay,” says study author Louise Hawkley, Ph.D. Over time, chronic stress can trigger inflammation, an immune system response that leads to fatty deposits in the arteries.
3. Have a baked potato. Spuds are a top source of potassium, a mineral that can offset the effects of sodium. According to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, consuming twice as much potassium as sodium daily can halve your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Most American consume only half of the 4,700 mg recommended daily, so load up on potatoes (900 mg each) and bananas (430 mg each).
4. Try interval training. Do you usually set the elliptical on the same perfect-for-magazine-reading pace? Switch up your cardio routine by incorporating brief bursts of high-intensity exercise: Researchers from Canada’s McMaster University found that 20 minutes of interval training (alternating near-maximum exertion with low-intensity recovery periods) is just as effective at strengthening your ticker as an hour of moderate exercise. “During these ‘sprints’, your heart pumps faster and harder, strengthening your arteries,” explains study author Maureen MacDonald, Ph.D. Try it next time you’re on the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike by going all-out for 30 seconds every 5 minutes.
5. Use your bean. “Legumes are high in phytosterols and lignans, substances that bind to cholesterol in the small intestine and prevent it from being absorbed into the bloodstream,” says Keri Gans, R.D., a dietitian in New York City. In fact, research published in the Journal of Nutrition found that 1/3 of a cup of cooked or canned beans daily can slash your chances of having a heart attack by up to 39 percent.
6. Do a D check. Women with vitamin D deficiencies in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s are 3 times more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life than those with normal levels, according to a new University of Michigan study. Unfortunately, some 75% of Americans fall short on their intake of the vitamin, which is found in fish and dairy products. “That’s why every woman should ask her physician for a simple blood test to check vitamin D levels,” says Savard. If the result is below 28 nanograms per milliliter, she may recommend taking a supplement (look for those made with D3, which is absorbed more easily than D).
7. Take a tech break. Plugged in 24/7? While that may impress your colleagues, it can do a number on your heart. “Being accessible at all times puts you on edge,” says Nieca Goldberg, M.D., a cardiologist in New York City. “That increases the production of adrenaline and cortisol, stress hormones that cause your blood pressure to rise.” To counteract that effect, log off of e-mail and mute your phone for an hour each night.
8. Wear earplugs to bed. Whether your window faces a busy street or your husband snores, nighttime noise increases your odds of developing high blood pressure by up to 45%, reports a study from Sweden’s Lund University. “It interrupts sleep and creates stress, says researcher Theo Bodin. To reclaim some peace & quiet, pick up a comfortable pair of earplugs, such as those from Mack’s ($2; amazon.com).
9. Call a funny friend. According to a University of Maryland study, laughing for just 15 minutes can boost blood flow by 22%. “It causes the endothelium, the tissue lining the insides of blood vessels, to relax,” says study author Michael Miller, M.D. “Over the long run, that can prevent your arteries from hardening and lower your risk of heart attacks and stroke.”
10. Sip some green tea. Drinking a mug increases blood flow in as few as 30 minutes, according to a recent study in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation. “The catechins, or antioxidants, in tea improve blood vessel function,” explains lead researcher Nikolaos Alexopoulos, M.D., who notes that black tea has a similar advantage.
11. Eat your fruits & veggies first. It’s a smart move for your waistline and your health. According to a new study from the University of Florida, people who began each meal with fresh produce consumed more nutrients and less saturated fat all day than those who didn’t. “A salad fills you up, so you won’t eat as much of the heavier main course,” says Heather Vincent, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.
12. Snuggle up with Snowball. “Pets have a soothing effect, acting as a buffer against stress,” explains Adnan Qureshi, M.D., the executive director of the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Research Clinic at the University of Minneapolis. In his study, cat owners were up to 40% less likely to dies from a heart attack than those without a feline friend. (Dogs probably provide the same benefit.)
13. Send yourself to bed. Researchers from Britain’s Warwick University found that women who got just 5 hours of shut-eye a night were twice as likely to die from heart disease than those who logged at least 7. “Skimping on sleep can promote calcium buildup in the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack-causing plaque,” says study author Michelle Miller, Ph.D.
14. Clear the air. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that common pollutants, such as soot, nitrates, and metals, can cause inflammation in the body. That, in turn, makes arteries less flexible and triggers a rapid spike in blood pressure. If you live near a major thoroughfare, avoid exercising outside during peak traffic times. And invest in a HEPA filter in your home, such as those by Honeywell (from $111; amazon.com)
15. Speak up. A heated argument with your mom can raise your stress levels and blood pressure. But research shows that bottling up your feelings won’t do your heart any favors either. A Western Washington University study found that women who refrained from saying what was on their mind had a higher risk of heart disease. If something’s bothering you, bring it up.
16. Give sardines a try. Experts recommend getting 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids daily to protect against inflammation and lower blood fats, called triglycerides. One convenient source is sardines, which contain 830 mg per 3-ounce serving. “Toss the fish with spicy mustard and sliced red onions, then serve them with whole-grain crackers or bread,” says Moore. Or try canned wild salmon, with 650 mg of omega-3 per 3-ounce serving.
17. Break out the honey. Overdosing on sugar may suppress the production of nitric oxide, which helps blood vessels relax and widen, say scientists at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. An easy way to cut back: Swap the sweetener for honey. It’s more concentrated, so you can use less. Research shows that those who opt for honey have lower cholesterol levels than those who sprinkle on sugar.
18. Spice up your supper. Onions and garlic not only flavor dishes without adding sodium or fat, they also provide a type of fiber called inulin. “This prebiotic promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the small intestine, which helps remove excess LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol,” explains Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a nutritionist in Sarasota, Florida. Other top inulin sources: artichokes, leeks, and bananas.
19. Hop on the bandwagon. Cheap and convenient, resistance bands are an essential part of any home gym. A recent study published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning Research shows that exercisers who used them along with dumbbells gained up to three times the body strength as those who only lifted weights. “Building muscle mass can reduce your body fat and raise your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels,” say Goldberg.
20. Order a smarter slice. Ask for your pizza with half the cheese and double the sauce and you’ll slash the saturated fat by 5 grams. “Plus, tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that fights the cell damage that can lead to atherosclerosis,” says Gans. In fact, Harvard researchers found that women who ate 7 or more servings of tomato-based foods a week were 65% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who consumed fewer than 2.
21. Get busy in the bedroom. People who have sex three or more times a week are half as likely to suffer a heart attack as those who heat up the sheets less frequently, report researchers from Britain’s University of Bristol. “Sex can relive stress, burn calories, and improve your relationship-all factors that benefit the heart,” says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University.
22. Have a heart-to-heart with your mom. “If she’s had cardiovascular disease before age 65, your own risk doubles,” says Savard. If you have a family history, check in with your M.D.; women under the age of 50 are usually screened every 2 years, but you should get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked yearly.
23. Drink your veggies. Sneak in an extra serving of produce by sipping on low-sodium vegetable juice. A recent study from the University of California, Davis, found that people who drank 2 cups a day lowered their blood pressure by up to 5 points after 3 months. Other research shows that, besides providing nutrients, veggie juice may help you shed pounds, which can safeguard the heart.
24. Say om. That post-yoga glow can benefit your heart along with your soul. A study from the Indian Institute of Technology found that people who practice have steadier heart rates, a marker of a healthy ticker, than those who don’t. Researchers explain that yoga soothes the nervous system, which slows breathing and calms the heart.
I know this was quite a long blog – sorry about that. I hope some of these tips will help you to improve your cardiovascular system.
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