Friday, June 26, 2015
Reprinted from www.commonhealth.virgina.gov
When dogs have a job to do, they give it their undivided attention. It turns out people should probably do the same. Stanford researchers found that attention and memory suffer in those who juggle work, email, and web-surfing, compared to those who focus on one task at a time. Other studies suggest employees actually lose time when multitasking.
You won’t catch your pet going from dawn to dusk without any shut-eye. There’s good evidence humans can benefit from catnaps, too. A study involving about 24,000 people indicates regular nappers are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than people who nap only occasionally. Short naps can also enhance alertness and job performance.
Walk Every Day
Whether you’ve got four legs or two, walking is one of the safest, easiest ways to burn calories and boost heart health. Taking regular walks can also help you: fight depression, lose weight, lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, lower the risk of breast and colon cancer, keep your bones strong, and keep your mind sharp.
People are social animals, and friendships have measurable health benefits. Researchers in Australia followed 1,500 older people for 10 years. Those with the most friends were 22% less likely to die than those with the fewest friends.
Live in the Moment
Living in the moment is one of the most important lessons we can learn from our pets. In a study called “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind”, Harvard psychologists conclude that people are happiest when doing activities that keep the mind focused, such as exercise. Planning, reminiscing, or thinking about anything other than the current activity can undermine happiness.
Don’t Hold a Grudge
Part of living in the moment is letting bygones be bygones. Let go of old grudges, and you’ll literally breathe easier. Chronic anger has been linked to a decline in lung function, while forgiveness contributes to lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety. People who forgive also tend to have higher self-esteem.
OK, so maybe you don’t have a tail. But you can smile or put a spring in your step when you’re feeling grateful. Researchers have found a strong connection between gratitude and general well-being. In one study, people who kept gratitude journals had better attitudes, exercised more, and had fewer physical complaints.
Indulging in a little silliness may have serious health benefits. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found a stronger sense of humor in people with healthy hearts than in those who had suffered a heart attack. They conclude that “laughter is the best medicine” – especially when it comes to protecting your heart.
Drink Water When You’re Thirsty
Dogs don’t lap up sports drinks when they’ve been playing hard – and most people don’t need to, either. During a typical workout, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated. Water gives your muscles and tissues critical fluid without adding to your calorie count. Be sure to drink more than usual on hot days or when you’re sweating a lot.
Most cats would trade kibble for a can of tuna any day. Luckily, you can choose to make fish a regular part of your diet. Salmon, tuna, trout, and other fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis. In addition, Rush University researchers found that people who eat fish at least once a week are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Goofing off is not just for kids and kittens. In his book, Play, Stuart Brown, MD, writes that playing is a basic human need along with sleeping and eating. Play enhances intelligence, creativity, problem-solving, and social skills. So take a cue from your pet and devote yourself to an activity that has no purpose other than sheer fun.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
A hike in the woods may be a dog’s idea of bliss, but it has plenty of benefits for the human mind and body, as well. Spending time outdoors can enhance fitness, increase vitamin D levels, and reduce stress. In children, playing in natural settings has also been linked to better distance vision, fewer ADHD symptoms, and better performance in school.
Stretching will keep you limber, but the benefits don’t stop there. In a 10-week study, volunteers who did no exercise other than stretching experienced surprising physical changes. Besides improving flexibility, they increased their muscle strength, power, and endurance. Although the study was a small one, the results suggest stretching may be a good alternative for people who have a condition that rules out traditional strength training.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
We are currently living through an epidemic of opiate abuse. Over 60 people are dying every day from these drugs. And the main problem is that our young people do not know or understand just how dangerous it is to try these drugs, even once.
For over a year now, we have been building IWINS, our non-profit project. IWINS is helping to educate our young people about the dangers of trying prescription painkillers, even once. The project is called IWINS - because it stands for "I Wish I Never Started"
We started by producing emotionally powerful 60- second YouTube videos. Each video is a real testimony from one of our patients - patients who thought they could try opiates, but who found that, very quickly, their life went downhill, they became physically dependent, and they couldn't stop. They were enslaved by the drugs and their lives went from bad to worse. These folks were able to look at the camera and say, "I wish I never started". We have had a lot of success showing these videos to help get the message out.
Now, we have produced a 30-minute informational program that is available for free for anyone to use. The education program uses the videos and other material and is developed to educate young people about the dangers of trying any kind of opiates, even once. The program can be run by anyone with only about 10-15 minutes of preparation time. It has been tested and found to be easy to moderate and any interested person can teach the material by just following the online instructions.
The program has been used with Boy Scouts groups, YMCA groups, university students and high school students. The response has been phenomenal. We would love to have more people use the education program and help us to spread the word.
We would be very grateful if you could help us. For more information you can contact the coordinator of this program, Debbie Cochrane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Better still, you could decide to facilitate the program at your school, your church youth group, your sports club, or any other place where teenagers and young adults can benefit from learning about the dangers of these drugs. To view a copy visit our web site at www.iwishineverstarted.org and click on the tab marked "The Program". Once there, the page will guide you thru the preparation and facilitation of the program.
I need your help to spread the word.
Thanks for your support!
Peter R. Coleman, MD
Monday, June 15, 2015
by Gabi Pinto-Coelo
Mark Twain once said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” But, let’s be honest, we all compare ourselves to other people from time to time. We evaluate everything from our body types to our material possessions on a regular basis. While each of us have different triggers, we all know what it feels like to hear, read, or see something that immediately makes you question yourself.
Comparison was a part of our routine even before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram became a part of our lingo and our lives. Of course, we cannot deny that these platforms have allowed us to reconnect and keep in touch with friends and family regardless of distance or time apart. But with the explosion of social media, it seems like our comparisons have intensified. Social media gives us many more platforms for comparisons and self-disdain. Our emotional responses to posts on social media, though illogical, can be enough to set us on a path of negativity and self-deprecation.
What happens is that people usually only post the “good” stuff on social media. It is human nature to want to showcase the best parts of you on a public platform. The ugly, depressing, and challenging parts of life are often diminished or left out entirely when it comes to social media posts. So, when we compare ourselves to what is shown on an Instagram account, we are looking at highly distorted version of that person’s real life. We are comparing our “insides” to their “outsides” So, how can we still stay connected with friends and loved ones but keep our sanity? These tips from might help…
1. Reduce the time you spend on social media. Given the fact that these social media apps are at our fingertips, we have a tendency to check them many times throughout the day. Instead, set aside five to ten minutes per day to browse through your social media accounts, and then be done with it. Avoid looking at profiles or content that you know triggers comparison.
2. Shift your focus to the things that really matter. Reflect on some things that you have been neglecting for a while: that book you’ve been meaning to read, the exercise regime you’ve been wanting to start, that wonderfully organized home you’ve been envisioning. Start devoting your time and energy toward those activities that keep you engaged and inspired. In that down time when you would normally browse social media, consider starting a calendar and scheduling those activities that you’ve been putting off.
3. Reflect on where those negative comparisons are coming from. When we step back and reflect on why we are reacting in a certain way, we can begin to see some areas of our lives that would benefit from some TLC. Start to identify practical ways in which you can start to boost your confidence and self-worth. Should you put a higher value on relationships? Value your time more? Revamp your diet and exercise? The approaches for each person will be different, so do what works for you and balance it with what you think you “should” do.
Monday, June 1, 2015
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
by Gabi Pinto-Coelho
Stress: it’s everywhere.
While we usually associate it with our lives at work, there is no guarantee that its gray cloud will dissipate once you get back home. We have dinners to make, kids (and maybe even parents) to take care of, homes to clean, errands to run, the list goes on. In our fast-paced culture, it seems like stress is inescapable.
We all know that stress is harmful to our health. Sometimes, we can literally feel its effects in the form of tense shoulders, a headache, or that overwhelming desire to hit the pillow the moment we are able. But what many people don’t know is how exactly stress affects us on a biological and neurological level. Stress has the rather unwelcome ability to change our brain activity and even the function of our cells.
Research has shown that stress is a risk factor for the development of addictions and vulnerability to relapse. Exposure to stressors, especially for a prolonged period of time, leads to an inability to control impulses. Unsurprisingly, this increases the risk to use, and ultimately, abuse substances of any kind.
New research has linked chronic stress to the shortening of telomeres, which are like disposable caps at the ends of your chromosomes. Telomeres protect your genetic material from deterioration. So, what’s the big deal? Over time, your telomeres will naturally shorten as your cells replicate. This process of gradual telomere shortening is a normal, expected part of aging. However, research has shown that exposure to chronic stress will accelerate the telomere aging process. Have you ever noticed how people who are very stressed look a little ragged, tired, and older than they really are? Scientists suspect that part of this has to do with our shrinking telomeres. This accelerated telomere shortening also puts us at risk for age-related and chronic health conditions.
The good news is that scientists have researched lifestyle factors effective for protecting yourself against the effects of stress on your life and your telomeres. Most of these lifestyle factors are not surprising, and are always a part of a healthy lifestyle.
These more obvious factors include: not smoking, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. Perhaps the most interesting of proven protective measures is meditation. While it is well-known that meditation and other mindfulness practices are useful for reducing stress in general, recent research has demonstrated a connection between meditation and a slowing of the erosion of telomeres. For those struggling with addiction, meditation has proven time and again to be a helpful tool to manage cravings and avoid relapse.
Stress affects almost everyone, but those suffering with addiction are especially vulnerable to its effects, on both an emotional and a biological level. That means that living a healthy lifestyle is vital to the well-being of anyone recovering from substance abuse.
We hear it all the time but it is worth repeating: take time to take care of yourself. Not only will you feel better, but you just might lengthen your telomeres, reduce your chances of relapse, and prolong your life.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
by Gabi Pinto-Coelho
As a lifelong overachiever and over-doer, I am all too familiar with thinking, thinking about my thinking, rethinking it all. Lather, rinse, repeat. Especially, when there is a big decision to be made, I tend to find myself in a seemingly endless vortex of thought. Now you might be thinking (get it?) - what is wrong with thinking? Isn’t the power of our intellect a wonderful thing? Can’t we solve a lot of problems by brilliant thoughts?
Yes, and no. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking. In fact, thinking is what separates us as superior biological beings and sets us comfortably at the top of the food chain. You don’t see orangutans going to college or whales inventing the iPhone. However, I would argue that thinking too much actually devolves us as humans. Before you immediately think that I must be off my rocker, I want you to remember a time when you were overwhelmed with thoughts about something in your life. Perhaps it was a big life decision; maybe it was something at work. Most people, when plagued with over thinking, experience any or all of these problems:
- · Anxiety
- · Depression
- · Insomnia
- · Fear
- · Indecision “paralysis”
- · Withdrawal or feeling a disconnect from relationships
- · Taking out your emotions on others
Really, the list could keep going, but I’ll stop there. Chances are, at least one of those “symptoms” of over thinking have rung true for you at some point in your life. Experiencing any of these symptoms actually dampens the ability of your true intellect. You might have deluded yourself into believing that all this extra brain chatter is helpful, but in reality, it clouds your ability to think clearly. Furthermore, over thinking clouds another, often neglected part of your intellect: your intuition. There is no point in making any kind of decisions from the foggy, overworked mind.
But, if we can solve a lot of problems with brilliant ideas, what is wrong with thinking a lot about something? The answer comes to us from neuroscience. You may have heard of the “shower principle” - that when you are not thinking about a problem (as when you are showering), the answer will come to you on its own (light bulb moments). Well, guess what? The shower principle is proven by science. Over and over again, research has shown that we cannot force sparks of inspiration, brilliant ideas, or a well thought-out decision. It just so happens that we delude ourselves into believing that we can over think our way out of our problems.
With this mindset, we feed the beast of over thinking, justifying it as “necessary” to our end goals. While it can be true that thinking leads us to solutions, this is true if and only if we are thinking clearly. Thinking clearly comes from a place where overall brain activity is relatively quiet, and from there you can allow both your intellect and intuition to run on full power. Let’s be honest: under that definition, most of us rarely think clearly in our daily lives. Now, before you become outraged with incredulity, allow me to share: this is also a fact proven by neuroscience.
As my high school science teacher would say, “If science proves it, your opinion is irrelevant.” So, if science has proven that over thinking does not work, your views on it don’t really make a difference. This is not depressing. Au contraire, this is actually liberating - you no longer have to tell yourself that you “have to” keep thinking, rethinking, and over thinking. In fact, it is detrimental to your problem-solving process to give in to the beast of over thinking.
So, what do you do if you feel like you are starting to go back into those old habits? It’s actually quite intuitive:
- First and foremost, just notice that you’re starting to go back to old patterns. Don’t beat yourself up over it, don’t freak out, just recognize that you are heading down that unhelpful, but habitual path. When trying to change a habit, you have to acknowledge where you are starting. Start where you are.
- Try a slow-paced physical activity - go for a walk, swim some slow laps, take a leisurely bike ride, practice yoga or tai chi. Whatever works for you. It is very hard (almost impossible) for the mind to go from being overworked to being calm without some kind of transition. This slow-paced physical activity gets you out of your head and rooted back in reality.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes and just focus on your breathing. You don’t need to change or control breathing in any way, just focus. Each time the mind wanders, gently, but precisely, bring your focus back to your breathing.
- Come back to whatever it is you need to do.
You might be thinking, “I don’t have time to take a walk and sit quietly - I’ve got stuff to get done!” This is the voice of the over thinking beast, and its brother, the overdoing beast. You think that if you just push a little harder for a little longer, you’ll get things done.
But yet again, neuroscience puts us in our place: thinking clearly and being as productive as possible require a quiet brain. So, the next time you find yourself over thinking, take the risk and just step away. Move a little. Breathe deeply. Watch what happens.