A hundred years ago, it seems, I dated a woman who taught yoga. While we were dating I did yoga every day. After we parted, I still practiced daily yoga for some years. While I still do yoga from time to time, one aspect I have carried into my daily life is breath control. I can honestly say that I use it to calm myself at some point every day of my life. I also employ it at night when I finally crawl under the covers. I am quick to sleep. Herewith Harvard Medical School on relaxation techiques.
The term “fight or flight” is also known as the stress response. It’s what the body does as it prepares to confront or avoid danger. When appropriately invoked, the stress response helps us rise to many challenges. But trouble starts when this response is constantly provoked by less momentous, day-to-day events, such as money woes, traffic jams, job worries, or relationship problems.
Health problems are one result. A prime example is high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. The stress response also suppresses the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Moreover, the buildup of stress can contribute to anxiety and depression. We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them. One way is to invoke the relaxation response, through a technique first developed in the 1970s at Harvard Medical School by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson. The relaxation response is a state of profound rest that can be elicited in many ways, including meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.
Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is learning to breathe deeply.
Deep breathing benefits Continue reading
Group of older mature people lifting weights in the gym
Here is a really useful summary of successful aging guidelines.
Our Better Health
What is the secret to longevity, and why do some people attain it while others don’t? Is it sheer luck, or are there some key factors at play here? Are we all born with the same potential to live a long and healthy life or is that determined solely by genetics?
Interestingly, it seems as though people living in specific regions of the world tend to live longer than those living elsewhere. So, what is it about these specific regions that offer people a chance to live a full life? This was the question that National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner wanted to answer.
Through his research, Buettner identified five geographic locations where people have been observed to live the longest. He has identified these regions as “Blue Zones,” and found that even though these zones differ widely geographically, the diets and lifestyles of their residents share much in common.
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I am a great believer in enjoying the outdoors. I ride my bike outdoors instead of opting for the exercise bike at the health club. Ditto, walking. I walk a lot outside rather than on the treadmill. So, I was very happy to run across this study from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS).
The gentle burbling of a brook, or the sound of the wind in the trees can physically change our mind and bodily systems, helping us to relax. New research explains how, for the first time.
Researchers at BSMS found that playing ‘natural sounds’ affected the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, with associated effects in the resting activity of the brain. While naturalistic sounds and ‘green’ environments have frequently been linked with promoting relaxation and well being, until now there has been no scientific consensus as to how these effects come about. The study has been published in Scientific Reports. Continue reading
Dealing with stress seemed like a daily occurrence back when I was in the working world. These days, being retired, it’s a different story. I know that many of you are still working and deal with severe stresses on a regular basis. For that reason, I have written numerous posts on the subject. I offer some examples at the bottom of this post.
Here is Harvard taking a positive look at stress:
Changing your mindset doesn’t mean taking a Pollyanna view of the world. The key isn’t to deny stress, but to recognize and acknowledge it — and then to find the upside, because a full-throttle fight-or-flight response is not the only possible reaction to stress (at least when the stress does not involve a potentially life-threatening situation).
In people with a more stress-hardy mindset, the stress response is often tempered by the challenge response, which accounts for the so-called excite-and-delight experience that some people have in stressful situations, such as skydiving. Like the typical stress response, the challenge response also affects the cardiovascular system, but instead of constricting blood vessels and ramping up inflammation in anticipation of wounds, it allows for maximum blood flow, much like exercise. The balance of hormones is different, too, including more DHEA. Continue reading
Stress is like some kind of shark that has gotten into our private swimming pool and threatens to ruin our otherwise perfect day. I have written about it numerous times. At the bottom of this post, I list some of my favorites.
Here is what Harvard has to say.
Stress in adults, especially older adults, has many causes. You may experience it as a result of managing chronic illness, losing a spouse, being a caregiver, or adjusting to changes due to finances, retirement, or separation from friends and family. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do for stress relief.
Tailor the treatment
The type of stress relief that works best depends on what someone is experiencing. For example, if insomnia is a considerable source of stress in adults, a special type of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to treat insomnia, called CBT-i, may help. It aims to correct ingrained patterns of self-defeating behavior and negative thoughts that can rob you of sufficient amounts of sleep. In fact, the American College of Physicians now recommends CBT-i over medications as the first-line treatment for insomnia.
If disability is a source of stress, changes in your home may help you live more independently. Turn to your doctor, a geriatrician, an occupational therapist, or a staff member at your local council on aging for guidance. Continue reading
I have written about yoga a number of times here. About a month ago I posted on a yoga study – yoga and back pain.
For the record, I dated a yoga teacher some years ago and practiced it religiously for the two years we were together and for several years afterward. So I am very familiar with its practice and results. I have certainly used the relaxation techniques available from yoga breathing virtually every day of my life.
I recently had some problems with my lower back. It was stiff and painful. It also felt like I was aggravating it riding the bike. So I went to the doctor. Upon examination, she told me that at my age, 77, I may have lost some of my flexibility, particularly in my spine. She recommended doing some yoga to see if it gave me relief.
First, some back pain facts.
WebMD says, “Back pain includes lower back pain, middle back pain, upper back pain or low back pain with sciatica. Nerve and muscular problems, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis can result in back pain.”
More than three million cases per year are reported in the U.S. alone. Continue reading
“My job creates so much stress.” “My marriage is so stressful.” “The holidays are always a stressful time of year.” We hear the word “STRESS” so often, we are almost immune to the REAL HARM it often produces. It is NOT just a NOUN or VERB. It is an EMOTION that causes SERIOUS HEALTH COMPLICATIONS […]
via STRESS ISN’T REALLY THAT DANGEROUS; IS IT? — All About Healthy Choices
After reading this superb explanation of the damage stress wreaks on your body, please check out my post – Some super tools for handling stress. There is an answer for it.
In an effort to keep as many foreign substances outside of my circulatory system, I take as few drugs as possible. Since I suffer from arthritis of the hands, I have to resist the temptation to get into painkillers daily. I fear the side effects more than my hands hurting.
The Harvard Health Publications offer a number of techniques, some of them age old, that may reduce one’s need for pain medication.
No respecter of age, arthritis pain can strike in numerous places.
The following techniques can help you take your mind off the pain and may help to override established pain signals.
1. Deep breathing. It’s central to all the techniques, so deep breathing is the one to learn first. Inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale. To help you focus, you can use a word or phrase to guide you. For example, you may want to breathe in “peace” and breathe out “tension.” There are also several apps for smartphones and tablets that use sound and images to help you maintain breathing rhythms. Continue reading
More good step by step info on living a healthy and happy life.
To read more on the value of exercise, check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)
For more on how good sleep is for the body, check out – How important is a good night’s sleep?
Our Better Health
When asked the question: “Do you take care of yourself?” most of us will answer yes — we’d even think, “What kind of question is this? Of course I care about myself.”
When asked, “In what ways do you take care of yourself?” — well, that’s where the tricky part begins.
What is self-care?
Self-care is any activity that we deliberately do in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Although it’s a simple idea in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also keep to a good relationship with oneself and others.
What isn’t self-care?
Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. As Agnes Wainman defined, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes…
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This being the weekend, I thought it appropriate to offer some ideas on how good it is to laugh.
I like these eight simple mental actions. They can clearly make a mountain of difference in your daily life if your aren’t practicing them.
These reminded me of the ideas from Dr. Maggie Crowley in Super tools for handling stress. Check it out.
Our Better Health
MARK DENICOLA MARCH 17, 2016
As much as our lives may be impacted by our circumstance, I’m a firm believer that they are far more influenced by our attitude. While we may collectively look down upon certain things, you can almost always find an opposing, positive stance to pretty well everything.
Take a rainstorm, for example. Most would find it annoying, gloomy, and/or unfortunate, but others (such as a farmer) would consider it something to be happy, relieved, and/or excited about.
With so much of our experience being within our control, why do so many of us continually choose to take such pessimistic and negative views towards things? Here is a list of 8 mind shifts that I personally feel could be the keys to finding the always sought-after success and happiness:
(NOTE: Of course there are certain experiences that will be far more difficult to apply these…
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I love the simplicity of this. Truly the best things in life are free.
When I bought my apartment, one of the major selling points was the fact that it overlooks Lake Michigan. My east view gives me sunrises every morning. Truly food for the soul.
To read further on positivity, check out PHow to harness positive psychology for you – Harvard.
For more on number three – stress, check out Super tools for handling stress.
Our Better Health
Which of these uncomplicated activities to you do most days?
Do these most days and it will help protect your mental health.
1. Dwell on the positive
Positive memories could be used as a way to help boost mental well-being, new research finds.
People in the study were asked to focus on positive social memories.
Participants focused on their own positive feelings from that memory as well as on the positive feelings of the other person.
The results showed that people felt socially safer and more positive and relaxed after the exercise.
At the same time feelings of guilt and fear were reduced.
2. Drink some tea
Tea is both calming and can make you feel more alert.
It improves cognitive performance in the short-term and may help fight Alzheimer’s in the long-term.
Finally, it is linked to better mental health.
I’ll raise a cup to that!
From: Tea: 6…
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When I was a kid and watched hundreds of double feature cowboy movies on Saturday afternoons, one of the phrases that I heard in almost every movie was, “Let’s head ’em off at the pass.” I knew the bad guys didn’t have a chance to get away because the good guys always headed them off.
Amazingly, that is also an example of one of our best defenses against stress. Head it off at the pass. Don’t even let it get get into your head. Works like magic, but it isn’t at all.
The Harvard Medical School has produced a special 52 page report on stress management and offered some superb guidelines on exactly that. It is called Cognitive Restructuring.
Here is an example: “Stop for a moment and try to remember the thoughts that were running through your head the last time you were late for work. Perhaps a simple thought, such as “the train is late,” quickly transformed into “I’ll be late to work. I won’t make it to my meeting on time. My boss will be angry with me. My job is in jeopardy. This always happens to me.” Continue reading
This seemed particularly timely in view of the fact that Thanksgiving is little more than a heartburn away. Harvard HEALTHBeat Offers the following:
“Maybe you’ve just eaten, or finished a meal an hour or so ago — and now your stomach just doesn’t “feel right.” You feel bloated and uncomfortable. Or maybe it’s more of a burning sensation. Maybe you feel queasy, or even throw up. You might say you have an “upset stomach” or indigestion. If there is no known medical cause for your symptoms, your doctor would call it “dyspepsia” or “bad digestion.”
“Indigestion is real. The medical term for persistent upper abdominal pain or discomfort without an identifiable medical cause is functional dyspepsia. The symptoms can come and go at any time, but often eating is the trigger. Sometimes the discomfort begins during the meal; other times, about half an hour later.
“If you suffer from functional dyspepsia, you’re not alone. Roughly 25% of the population is affected, and it hits men and women equally. It’s responsible for a significant percentage of visits to primary care doctors, in part because many people worry they might have an ulcer. While it’s frustrating that the cause of functional dyspepsia is unknown, it’s even more frustrating that there is no surefire cure.
The good news is that there are simple things you can try to help get some relief:
1 Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms.
2 Eat small portions and don’t overeat; try eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, and be sure to chew food slowly and completely.
3 Avoid activities that result in swallowing excess air, such as smoking, eating quickly, chewing gum, and drinking carbonated beverages.
4 Reduce your stress. Try relaxation therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy, or exercise. An aerobic workout 3-5 times per week can help, but don’t exercise right after eating.
5 Get enough rest.
6 Don’t lie down within two hours of eating.
7 Keep your weight under control.
For more on diagnosing and treating indigestion, buy The Sensitive Gut.
Excellent ideas here. Let’s take the hurry out of eating.
Kim the Dietitian's Weblog
How you eat matters. A recent study supports what seems obvious to me: a pleasant, relaxing eating experience leads to healthier food choices and better health.
So many people race out the door, grabbing something as they go, or they graze all day long without ever sitting down to enjoy their food. The study looked at the eating habits of over 1000 college and university students and found that those who prepared food at home and had a set eating schedule ate healthier than those who ate “on the fly,” grabbed food at school or were distracted by video games or TV.
What a shame to miss the experience of eating! It should be pleasurable; in my opinion, eating is one of the great pleasures of life. Being more mindful of the experience is not only healthier, but it’s also much more enjoyable.
I know we are all in a hurry, but we can all…
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I love the ideas here. We are all subject to stresses on a daily basis. Here are some ways to reclaim your stability.
I have written so many posts on stress, relaxation and walking that I can’t list them all. Please type any of those words into the s e a r c h box on the right to read further.
A Surprising Source of Stress and What to Do About It
We all have a lot of stress that we get exposed to all the time. When we usually talk about stress, we mean the kind that involves planning dinners for the whole family, getting your finances in order, showing up for you loved ones, and getting time in a day to exercise a bit.
This stress is ubiquitous and we mostly talk about it in the inevitable sense. Those are all things we’re going to be exposed to, right? In a way that’s true, if you plan to be part of the modern day world.
But today, we’re going to expand our meaning of stress a bit. But before you panic about all that extra stress, there’s going to be an exercise that helps you deal with any and all type of stress. It’s…
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