Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

Archive for November 18, 2010

How to Keep Your Spirits High During the Upcoming Holidays

How to Keep Your Spirits High During the Upcoming Holidays

For some, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” filled with family get-togethers, good food and time to sit back and reflect on all there is to be thankful for. But for many, the holiday season brings with it stress, anxiety, sadness and despair, leading to a full-blown case of the holiday blues.

“A lot of people around the holidays want to have everything perfect. When it’s not, it causes them stress and anxiety,” says James Conti, a psychologist with the Memorial Health Care System in Hollywood, Florida.

Remember, your holidays don’t have to be “picture perfect” to be joyful and memorable.

In fact, the “season to be jolly” is anything but for millions of Americans. “People get burned out and wish the holidays were over,” says Dr. Jeffrey Brantley, director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at Duke University’s Center for Integrative Medicine.

The holiday blues can be brought on by a variety of factors, according to the National Mental Health Association, including:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Over-commercialization
  • Financial constraints
  • Inability to be with one’s family and friends
  • The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions and houseguests

Holiday blues can encompass more than feelings of stress and sadness. Loneliness, uncertainty about the future, self-evaluation and reflection on past failures often surface, leading to symptoms like headaches and difficulty sleeping and reactions such as excessive drinking and over-eating.

As a result, a full one in five Americans worry that holiday stress could affect their physical health, says the American Psychological Association.

Keeping Your Spirits Bright

If you know you have a tendency to feel blue around the holiday season (or after January 1, when all the excitement ends), these tips can help you ward off stress and keep your spirits high.

Set Realistic Expectations. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Neither will be your “perfect” holiday. Try not to set all of your expectations on just one day, but rather try to experience the holidays a little at a time over the entire season. Don’t be afraid to say no, and be liberal in delegating tasks to friends and family who want to help. Taking on too much is guaranteed to send you down the path of anxiety, not gaiety.

Leave the Past Behind You. Dwelling on the “good old days” can bring up feelings of loss or wanting for things to be how they used to be. Embrace changes and find a way to enjoy the season as it is now. Starting a new tradition is a good first step.

When “Holiday Blues” May be Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, you should seek professional help if you experience five or more of these symptoms for two weeks. If you have thoughts of death or suicide, seek help immediately.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

Donate Your Time. Spending your time volunteering for others in need will help you share the holiday spirit and make you feel warm inside. Many people who volunteer report feeling a heightened sense of well-being.

Try Some Creative, No-Cost Activities. Engaging in simple holiday activities is a great way to enjoy the season. Try driving around to look at holiday decorations, caroling, baking cookies, decorating a gingerbread house, going for a brisk walk in a forest preserve or making a snowman.

Exercise as Much as Possible. “Don’t worry about sticking to a regular regimen,” says Howard Feldman, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Center for Integrative Medicine in Chicago. “Just get anything in. That can be helpful and it’s better than not doing it at all.”

Avoid Overspending. According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, money issues are the top cause of stress for Americans around the holiday season. Try to make homemade gifts, give gifts of time or draw names so you only give a gift to one or two people.

Remember What Is Important. It’s easy to lose site of the real meaning of the holiday season and instead get caught up in the more material aspects. Focus your efforts on family, friends and other values that are important to you personally.

Keep Time for Yourself. Having time to relax is essential to a happy holiday. Don’t overlook this one!

When Holiday Blues Become More Serious

Feeling blue or anxious around and after the holidays is something many people face. But if the feelings persist or become overwhelming, you may be suffering from clinical depression.

“Mild or temporary depressive moods, sadness or fatigue don’t usually require professional attention,” said Mitchel Kling, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “However, if depressive symptoms last for weeks, and are accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty enjoying activities that are usually enjoyable, it may be helpful to consult with a medical professional.”


How to Travel Abroad Safely: Six Important Tips You Need to Know in an Emergency

How to Travel Abroad Safely: Six Important Tips You Need to Know in an Emergency

Millions of Americans enjoy the adventure and experience of traveling abroad each year. But even the best-planned vacation can turn into a nightmare in the face of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, civil unrest, illness or other emergency situation.

Fortunately, with a little forethought you can prepare for your trip in a way that offers you the most security and peace of mind even while visiting international locations.


Always let family or friends know your detailed itinerary before leaving for a trip abroad.

1. Have the Right Paperwork.

A valid passport, current and with the emergency page complete, along with any necessary visas, is essential. The U.S. Department of State recommends that you make two copies of the identification page of your passport–one to keep with you (if you lose your passport this will help you get it replaced) and one to leave with your family or friends at home.

2. Do Your Homework.

Take the time to read up on the country you are visiting. Pay attention to local customs and laws. Remember that once you leave the United States, U.S. laws no longer apply. Also, watch out for travel warnings and consider postponing or relocating your trip if danger is present.

3. Tell Your Friends and Family Where You Will Be.

Leave a copy of your itinerary, including flight numbers, hotels and contact information, and any other plans, with your family or friends at home. In the event of an emergency, they’ll have a starting place of where to look.

4. Register With the Nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

These agencies help close to 200,000 Americans each year who fall victim to crime, accident or illness or whose family is trying to contact them due to an emergency. In the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Wilma, which stranded thousands of tourists in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, it’s the embassy or consulates job to locate Americans and help them.


Taking an extra week’s worth of medication with you overseas will ensure you won’t run out during an emergency.

If you register your trip with the agency, it will be much easier for them to locate you. Also be sure to take the addresses and telephone numbers of U.S. embassies and consulates in the countries you will visit with you on your trip.

5. Be Prepared Medically.

Make sure to take your insurance cards with you and determine what medical services are covered while you’re overseas. The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs also recommends that you carry a letter from your physician describing any pre-existing medical conditions and names of medications, along with any medications you take (in their original containers with labels). You may also want to take an extra week’s worth of medication with you in the event of emergency.

6. Make Sure Your Cell Phone Has International Access.
Not every cell phone will work once you travel outside of the United States. Making sure that your cell phone does work when you’re abroad makes it much easier to stay in touch with loved ones at home in the event of an emergency.


7 Ways Food Allergies Could Benefit You (& the Earth)

7 Ways Food Allergies Could Benefit You (& the Earth)

A food allergy diagnosis can range from being a minor inconvenience — like having to read labels to check for food dye — to a major health issue (think extreme, lethal allergies to milk, eggs, and nuts).

But let’s look at the bright side for a moment: If you’re forced to pay attention to every ingredient that goes onto your plate, you could also be making better choices for your health and the environment — from choosing foods with smaller carbon footprints to defaulting to organic produce over packaged goods. In fact, we could learn a lot from the way people with food allergies approach their plate.

1. You Know Where Your Food Comes From

Whether you’re allergic to nuts, soy, dairy, eggs, gluten, or any other ingredient, a food restriction means you spend a lot more time reading labels — and figuring out exactly where your food comes from. Someone with a deadly allergy — like one to peanuts — needs to trust the source of their food.

A general awareness of what you’re eating and how it got to your plate gives you a better understanding of the environmental impact of your daily diet, from the miles traveled by those South American bananas to exactly what goes into selling tomatoes in New England in January. Once you start thinking about the production and distribution of every single ingredient, you’re more likely to make choices that are good for the Earth (as well as for your health).

2. You Read the Ingredients

People with food allergies spend a lot of time reading nutrition labels, checking for those hidden terms, key words, and “made in a factory that also processes” warnings.

There’s no doubt about it: that’s exhausting. And once you’re really looking at every ingredient in your packaged cereals, breakfast bars, chips, and snacks, you start to wonder: Is processed food really delicious enough to warrant taking in all those chemicals and preservatives? It’s so much easier to snack on fresh fruit and vegetables, add your own fruit and cinnamon to old-fashioned oatmeal instead of relying on the packets, whisk up your own olive-oil-and-vinegar dressings, and spend half an hour baking from-scratch brownies — plus, you know exactly what you’re eating.

3. You Consume Less Food Dye

Allergies to food dye don’t often get the same PR as other food allergies — most elementary schools don’t have a dye-free table like they do for peanuts — but these synthetic colorings have their risks: Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are “contaminated with known carcinogens,” according to a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and can cause severe reactions along with Blue 1; and Red 3 is no longer allowed in cosmetics but still goes into Fruit Roll-Ups.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also reports that food dyes have been linked to hyperactivity — and many of them are banned in Europe. ( 10 Breakfast Cereals to Avoid)

4. You Consume Less Wheat

People suffering from celiac disease are unable to properly process gluten — which is a protein found in rye, barley, and all of wheat’s many forms: spelt, durum, seminola, and faro, among others, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.

Eating gluten can cause intestinal damage in celiac patients, so many of them find themselves on a diet that restricts everything from beer and flour to cookies and pasta. But if we all consumed less wheat, we’d be cutting back on the pesticides and chemicals that go into this worldwide cash crop: Though, pound for pound, it’s less environmentally harmful than producing meat, it still requires a lot of land and a lot of resources.

5. Cutting Out Dairy Lightens Your Footprint (a Lot)

Like a gluten allergy, a dairy allergy can severely limit your food options: milk, butter, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, sour cream, and other animal byproducts are all off the menu. But while it might mean skipping that luscious-looking dessert that the rest of your party is enjoying, your aversion could end up being good for the environment: According to GoVeg and Planet Green, there are 9 million dairy cows in the United States, and many (if not all) of them live in inhumane conditions, produce 120 pounds of waste each day, and end up at the slaughterhouse, where they contribute to the environmental impact of the beef industry.

6. You Don’t Have to Think About Sustainable Seafood

According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, about 7 million Americans are allergic to fish and shellfish — especially to salmon, tuna, and halibut.

If you’re one of those people, then you should avoid fish altogether (and also steer clear of certain salad dressings, Worcestershire sauce, and Asian sauces, which can all have fish as an unexpected ingredient), but that also means you’re one less eater contributing to the overfishing and black market sales of popular fish. Your doctor can tell you whether you’re allergic to all fish or just certain kinds; if you do get the go-ahead to eat certain seafood, fill your cart up with sustainable species.

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7. It Rubs Off on Your Family

Every family has its chef — the person primarily in charge of packing lunches, making weekend pancakes, and getting dinner on the table each night — and that’s the person who has the most influence over how the others eat. But just one severe food allergy in a family can change the eating habits of everyone else: You’re not just cutting out dairy for one person, but for three or four or five, which has a much bigger impact on the bottom line of your family’s carbon footprint. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to give up pancakes just because mom has a gluten allergy, but it does mean that you’re more likely to make heather choices not just for yourself, but for those around you, too.

by Samantha, selected from TreeHugger

Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, and, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.

What Your Dance Moves Say About You…

What Your Dance Moves Say About You

The mashed potato, the hustle, the running man–you may think your funky chicken is just some fun cutting-the-rug, but scientists claim that there’s more to your windmill arms than meets the eye.

Dr Geoff Luck of the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, leader of the research, said: “Music is known to evoke strong emotions in people and emotions can be expressed through bodily movement. People use body motions as reliable indicators of others’ personality types, and even the movements of robots have been shown to elicit attributes of ‘personality’ by observers.”

Dr Peter Lovatt, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, said dancing and movement transmit messages about the way people are feeling and thinking, which has its routes deep in our evolutionary history. He adds, “There is a common train of thought that dancing is related to sexual selection and is part of the mate selection process.”

The researchers poured over the dance moves of 60 volunteers who had been selected from 900 people who underwent personality tests. The dancers were picked due to having strong scores in one of the five main personality traits being studied. Each of the volunteers were asked to dance  to 30 different tracks from six different genres of music – rock, techno, Latin, jazz, funk and pop.

Extroverted people move their bodies around most on the dance floor, often with energetic and exaggerated movements of their head and arms. Rock music tended to bring out stereotypical headbanging moves, particularly among those with an extrovert personality.

Neurotic individuals dance with sharp, jerky movements of their hands and feet – a style that might be recognised by clubbers and wedding guests as the “shuffle.” Rock music appeared to be the only genre that brought neurotics out of their shells; otherwise they tended to make small, nervous movements.

Agreeable people tend to have smoother dancing styles, making use of the dance floor by moving side to side while swinging their hands. Agreeable individuals seemed to move around more confidently than the others during Latin music.

Open-minded people tend to make rhythmic up-and-down movements, and did not move around as much as most of the others. Those with open-minded personalities seem to make more rhythmical limb movements than anyone else during techno music.

Conscientious or Dutiful
Conscientious or dutiful dancers move around the dance floor a lot, and also moved their hands over larger distances than other dancers. conscientious participants changed from moving around the dance floor to making smaller jerkier movements while listening to techno music.

by Melissa Breyer

Eight Healthy & Delicious Foods that Will Provide You a Major Energy Kick

Eight Healthy & Delicious Foods that Will Provide You a Major Energy Kick

Having energy throughout the day is, for many, like chasing after the elusive white rabbit. Just when you think you’ve got it, after a cup of coffee and a morning sweet roll, for instance, it slips away and feels as though it was never even there.

Whether struggling with energy ups and downs or, worse, feeling tired all the time, a lack of energy is a real drain on your work and social life. In fact, close to one-third of respondents the National Sleep Foundation poll said they have missed work or other events, or made errors at work, because of being too sleepy. Another 23 percent said their intimate or sexual relationship had been negatively affected because of being too tired.

Energy Food

Tired of the after-lunch energy crash? Stay away from fast food and opt for a salad with chicken, tuna or other protein instead.

Of course, many factors contribute to your level of energy but one of the most influential is what kinds of food you put in your body. Overall, a healthy diet with fresh, minimally processed foods will give you drastically more energy than a diet of mostly processed food.

Specifically, adding the following eight foods to your diet will rev up your energy and help keep you from yawning at 10 a.m., feeling your eyelids get heavy at 1 p.m., and nodding off during your afternoon meeting at 4 p.m.–and they taste great too. (NOTE: Eating the certified organic versions of these foods will increase their energy-boosting power even more.)

1. Lean Beef or Chicken (ideally free-ranged)
Adding a little protein to every meal is essential to keep your organs functioning and your energy levels up. Lean protein also contains tyrosine, an amino acid that helps your brain produce the chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine, which improve your mental function. Turkey, pork tenderloin, eggs, shellfish and sardines also contain tyrosine.

2. Black Beans
Complex carbohydrates like those in black beans and other legumes help keep your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day, providing a steady, slow-burning source of energy to make you feel awake. Plus, black beans are a rich source of iron, an integral part of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the body, and key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism.

3. Seaweed
Seaweeds like kelp, wakame, arame and dulse can be found in Asian grocery stores and health food stores. It can be eaten dried, straight out of the bag, or added to soups, salads and vegetables. Seaweed contains the broadest range of minerals of any food–the same minerals found in the ocean and in human blood. It also contains pantothenic acid and riboflavin–two B-vitamins needed for your body to produce energy.

Energy Food

Keep a glass of water handy all day long; staying hydrated is key to keeping energy levels up.

4. Almonds
These tasty nuts are rich in manganese and copper, both of which are essential cofactors of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase. This enzyme helps keep energy flowing by inhibiting free radicals inside cells’ mitochondria (the energy-producing area of cells). Plus, they also contain riboflavin, another important component of energy production.

5. Water
We know, it’s not really a food, but it’s so important that we decided to include it anyway. Water is necessary for your body to produce energy, including digesting, absorbing and transporting nutrients. If you don’t drink enough of it, your cells will be less able to receive the nutrients they need for energy, leaving you feeling sluggish. If plain water doesn’t appeal to you, try spicing it up with a squeeze of lemon, lime or other citrus.

6. Cantaloupe
This melon is an exceptional energy food because of its combination of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate, and niacin (vitamin B3). The B vitamins (necessary for the body to process sugars and carbs) combined with fiber (which helps the sugars be distributed gradually) support energy production by keeping blood sugar levels stable.

7. Kiwi
This tiny fruit often gets overlooked in favor of the more common apple or orange, but it packs a powerful punch. With more vitamin C than an equal amount of orange, it’s a potent energy-boosting food. When vitamin C levels are depleted, people often feel tired. One study found that women with low vitamin C levels felt more energized after receiving vitamin C daily. “They felt better and they had more energy,” said Carol Johnston, PhD, assistant professor of food and nutrition in the family resources department at Arizona State University. Other foods rich in vitamin C include raw red or green pepper, broccoli, strawberries and Brussels sprouts.

8. Oatmeal
This morning favorite is loaded with soluble fiber, a key to slowing down carbohydrate absorption and keeping blood sugar levels steady. “A fiber-packed whole grain cereal, oatmeal is your best breakfast choice for long-lasting energy,” says William Evans, PhD, director of the nutrition, metabolism, and exercise laboratory at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (Leesa recommends organic quinoa for those, like her,  must adhere to a gluten-free lifestyle! Try adding a nut butter or boiled egg for some extra protein! ) 


Anti-Aging Benefits of Strengthening Your Core

Anti-Aging Benefits of Strengthening Your Core

Do you run religiously on a treadmill for hours every week? Do you lift weights, too, and assume you’re covering all of your fitness basics? Well you’ve got a good start, but you’re missing out on a very important fitness staple that is a key to your health and longevity: building your core.

core exercise

Your body has 29 core muscles, located mostly in your back, abdomen, and pelvis, that work to give you a stable center of gravity. You use them on a daily basis for everything from swinging a tennis racket to bending over to tie your shoes. If not kept strong “the slightest strain” in bending … yes, even tying your shoes, can cause excruciating pain and problems. You likely have seen others with these problems due to not maintaining a healthy strong core.

What exactly is your “core”? It’s a set of 29 muscles in your back, abdomen and pelvis, muscles that are essential to your ability to function on a daily basis. It’s because of your core muscles that you can control your movements, maintain balance and stability. They also protect and support your back, which is an essential element as you age.

If your exercise program does not address your core muscles, your body can become weak in its center, making you more prone to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.

Strengthening your core muscles, on the other hand, means that your spine will be supported and your body less prone to injury during sports activities and also during daily life.

Considering that more people rush to U.S. emergency rooms for injuries related to falling than from any other cause, and, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, they’re the primary cause of accidental death in people over the age of 65, strengthening your core muscles to keep your center of gravity stable could very well save your life, and also extend it.

The Benefits of Strengthening Your Core

When your core muscles are strong, it makes you more stable and less prone to injury. Studies have shown, for instance, that:

  • Core stability has an important role in injury prevention among athletes.
  • Core strength enhancement programs can help prevent injuries in workers. Among one group of firefighters, an intervention to improve flexibility and strength in the trunk stabilizer and core muscles groups results in 42 percent fewer injuries and reduced lost work time due to injuries by 62 percent in a 12-month period.
  • An eight-week rehabilitation program that improved hip and core muscle strength in women reduces the knee abduction movement, which is associated with developing patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).

The Mayo Clinic has also pointed out numerous ways that core exercises can benefit you, such as:

So even though toned core muscles may not make as big an aesthetic impression as toned abdominals or biceps, toned core muscles will keep you agile and stable even as you get older.

What is the Best Way to Strengthen Your Core Muscles?

You don’t need to go to a gym or buy special equipment to strengthen your core, you simply need to perform exercises that will get all your core muscles working together as you use the trunk of your body without support. Three such exercises include:

  1. Bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent (feet on the floor). Contract your abdominal muscles and raise your hips off the floor, holding the position for five to eight seconds. Slowly lower your hips to the floor, then repeat the move. For a more advanced bridge, try extending one knee, then the other, while in the bridge position.

  1. Plank

Lie on your stomach, resting on your forearms with your palms facing down. Raise off the floor so you are resting on your elbows and toes. Keeping your back flat, contract your core muscles and hold for 10 seconds, then lower yourself to the floor and repeat. For a challenge, try stretching out one arm or leg at a time, or reaching out an arm and opposite leg at the same time.

  1. Side Plank

Lie on your left side, then raise your body onto your left forearm, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees aligned. Rest your right arm on your side. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then repeat on the right side. For a more advanced side plank, raise onto your left hand with your hips coming off the floor and extend your right hand toward the ceiling.

However, to get a more comprehensive workout, one that will build your core muscles and provide you with a phenomenal mind-body workout, the SheaNetics fitness program from can’t be beat.

SheaNetics® uses “Tri-Core Power Training” to help build up all three key muscle groups of your core, helping to prevent injuries and improve performance. Below you can hear from leading surgical, medical and physical therapy professionals discuss the health-giving benefits, including core stabilization and strength, of SheaNetics:

SheaNetics is simply the best way to build core strength, flexibility and to achieve meditation in thought and motion … all at the same time. This is something that other fitness programs just don’t offer, and best of all you can do the entire program right from your own living room.

If you like pilates and yoga, both of which work the muscles of the abdomen, lower back and buttocks to create flexibility and strength, you will love SheaNetics®, which is a self-styled blend of Yoga, Pilates, Martial Arts, Tai Chi, Gyrokenisis®, Dance and other great formats to give you fabulous comprehensive core-building workouts.

Whether you want to excel at sports, play tennis on the weekends or simply stay strong and active well into your golden years, building your core is essential. Be sure you are including core-strengthening moves into your life now to experience the phenomenal benefits both now and later.


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