Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

Posts tagged ‘sleep’

7 Surprising Signs You Need to Sleep More

7 Surprising Signs You Need to Sleep More

One in three Americans aren’t getting enough  sleep — are you one of them? Click through to check out some of the most  surprising consequences of sleep deprivation. How many hours do you get each  night? Let us know in the comments section.

1. You’re Feeling Weepy.

Have you ever felt like you might burst into  tears at the drop of a hat after you pulled an all-nighter? Researchers  at UC-Berkeley have linked sleepless nights to our inability to reason and  handle perceived threats. That minor squabble with a friend or sappy movie on TV  may not seem so terrible on a day when we’re well-rested.

2. You Just Can’t Focus.

From plane crashes to oil spills, some of the worst disasters in recent  memory have been attributed, at least in part, to fatigue. Similarly, one study  has suggested that medical interns on the night shift were two times as likely  to misinterpret test results from patients. Sure, most of us don’t have the  lives of innocent people in our hands on a daily basis (well, outside of our  cars.. more on that later), but sleep deprivation can have serious consequences  on our everyday lives. Sleepiness can impact your brain’s ability to focus and  stay alert, thus making it more difficult to understand and process new  information.

3. You Always Feel Sick.

Everyone in your family has avoided the cold this winter, but you’ve had the  sniffles since Thanksgiving. What gives? Take a look at your sleep habits. If  you’re not getting enough shut eye, your immune system is not working as well as  it could be, thus making you more susceptible to catching viruses or bacterial  infections. And it doesn’t just make you more likely to catch a cold, it can  also make it harder for you to recover.

4. You’re Never Hungry.. Or You’re Always  Hungry.

Everyone is different, even when it comes to how sleep deprivation impacts  our appetites — and neither of them are healthy. A lack of sleep throws our  internal clock , and our hunger hormones, off balance. For some of us, this  means that we eat more than we normally would, and for others it means we don’t  want to eat at all.

5. Your Skin is Dry.

Sleep is a time for your body to repair itself — including creating new skin  cells. That, plus all of the essential vitamins, water, and nutrients that your  skin needs to stay healthy, can cause your skin to dry out.

6. You’re Sloppy.

Spill your coffee on the newspaper this morning? Sleeplessness can impact  your motor skills and ability to react quickly to things around you. Maybe  you’re not just a klutz, perhaps  you need more sleep!

7. You’re Forgetting Everything.

Can’t remember what you ate for breakfast? You may need a few more hours of  shut eye. Sleep impacts how your brain stores information, including, yep, where  you left your glasses. And it’s not just your short-term memory: sleep  deprivation has been shown to have negative consequences of student’s test  scores and grades.

By Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A  Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives  in Oakland, California.

Are You Healthier Than a 100-Year-Old?

Are You Healthier Than a 100-Year-Old?

There used to be this great game show on TV: “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth  Grader?”

The premise of the show was to determine whether or not the average adult  could answer questions based on a typical elementary school learning curriculum.  Contestants would attempt to correctly respond to ten questions.

Along the way, the presumably well-educated adult could solicit the help of  one of several pint-sized counterparts, dubbed, “classmates.”

As a television program, it provided viewers with a slew of hilarious  situations, and forced dozens of adults to admit that they were, “not smarter  than a fifth grader.”

In the two- and-a-half years that the show was on, only two people won the  top prize of $1,000,000—one of them being a former Nobel Prize winning  physicist.

What does all of this have to do with you?

Well, given the results of a recent, nationwide survey, quite a lot,  actually.

The survey took an in-depth look at the habits, preferences, and lifestyles  of 100 centenarians (people age 100 and older) and measured them against 300  baby boomers (aged 50-55) to pinpoint the differences and similarities between  each group.

Looking at the outcome of the seventh-annual “United HealthCare 100@100  Survey” report, may cause baby boomers to ask themselves a rather curious  question: “Am I healthier than a centenarian?”

To help you answer this question for yourself, try (honestly)  answering the following queries:

Do I consistently eat a balanced diet complete with plenty of fruits,  vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates?

The connection between sound nutritional choices and good health has been  scientifically proven countless times, but this message appears to have had more  of an impact on the most long-lived members of our society than on those we  consider to be ‘middle-aged.’ 80 percent of centenarians reported that they  maintain a healthy  diet almost daily, while only 68 percent of boomers were able to agree with  that same statement.

Do I get eight hours of sleep every night?

Catching  Zs for the recommended seven or eight hours each night has been linked to many  positive health outcomes such as: reduced levels of stress, better  cardiovascular health, and a decreased risk for depression. Yet only 38 percent  of boomers say they get the suggested  amount of sleep, compared to 70 percent of centenarians.

How often do you laugh?

If your answer is daily, then keep up the good work. The survey indicated  that, while boomers do laugh more, most of the members of the 100-year-old club  also reported appreciating  the lighter side of life. 87 percent of boomers said they chuckled at least  once a day versus 80 percent of centenarians.

Do you exercise regularly?

Though the majority of centenarians say that they exercise almost daily,  boomers do have them beat—but only by a slim margin (59 percent of boomers  versus 51 percent of centenarians). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  recommends that adults try to get a minimum of about 150 minutes of  moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. This amount is thought to be  sufficient to reap the numerous benefits attributed to regular physical  activity, including: reduced cancer and type 2 diabetes risk, better  cardiovascular health, stronger muscles and bones, and a longer lifespan.

What do you do for exercise?

Both age groups reported that physical health was the most important, yet  most difficult, aspect of health to maintain as a person gets older. How do the  oldest elders work out? Many cited walking (44 percent) and engaging in muscle  strengthening exercises (41 percent) as their go-to methods of staying in shape.  One curious finding in the realm of physical fitness was that more centenarians  than boomers said that they supplemented their work-out regimes with  mind/body/spirit activities such as Yoga, or Tai chi.

Do you regularly communicate with friends and family?

The same number (89 percent) of boomers and centenarians claimed that they  engage in regular communication and with their family and friends, lending  further credence to the connection between a strong social support group and  good health.

So, are you really healthier than a 100-year-old?

Handling healthy habit blockers

Time, energy, illness  and money are often the most commonly cited barriers to leading a healthy  lifestyle.

Interestingly, even though the elderly are sometimes viewed as being sicker,  more tired, and more financially strained than their younger counterparts, the  survey found that fewer centenarians than boomers said that their ailments or  purse strings got in the way of them leading a healthy lifestyle. Additionally,  only 15 percent of centenarians claimed that they were too tired to make good  choices on how to be healthier; a figure not too much larger than the 10 percent  of boomers who said the same thing.

Baby boomers are likely to face some significant obstacles when it comes to  maintaining their physical, mental and spiritual well-being as they get older,  particularly if they are members of the stressed-out Sandwich Generation. The  key is to look for ways to take advantage of the opportunities you do have.

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com  Editor

AgingCare.com  connects family  caregivers and provides support, resources, expert advice and senior housing  options for people caring for their elderly parents. AgingCare.com is a trusted  resource that visitors rely on every day to find inspiration, make informed  decisions, and ease the stress of caregiving.

8 Tips for Creating a Life with More Joy and Less Stress

3 Generations of Family #caregiving
Get your new year started on the right foot. We’ve compiled a list of new years resolutions you can use to cultivate a life with more relaxation, happiness, purpose and love. Happy new year!

Most of us who haven’t retired yet live busy, stressed-out lives. After all, we’ve got a lot to do: A job to work, children to raise, parents to check on, errands to run. What’s not to be stressed about, right?

The fact is that our responsibilities and obligations aren’t likely to fade anytime soon, but our stress can. It comes down to attitude. The mindset with which we approach the world around us (and the world within us) is the number one factor determining our happiness.

Here are eight time tested guidelines for a life with less stress and more joy:

1. Clarify Your Top Priorities and Control What You Can

Take time to plan and prioritize. The most common source of stress is the perception that you’ve got too much work to do.  Rather than obsess about it, pick one thing that, if you get it done today, will move you closer to your highest goal and purpose in life. Then do that first.

Remember also that some things are beyond your control. Has a parent with dementia said something unkind? Remind yourself that while you can’t prevent these remarks, you can control how you react to them.

Laughing man #laughter

2. Laugh Often

Laughter is a healthy way of relieving tension. It decreases levels of stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) while increasing the primary neurotransmitter for contentment, endorphin, our body’s own natural pain reliever. It also brings people together, which is always beneficial. Did your elderly mother try to make coffee with cat litter? Allow yourself to laugh it off instead of getting flustered.

You can also work actively to add laughter to your life. Place a higher priority on spending time with loved ones who make you laugh. Get a daily dose of your favorite sitcom on Netflix-streaming or Hulu if it’s not on TV. Or try Laughter Yoga. Its practitioners note that science has found the body is unable to differentiate between natural laughter and forced laughter. For this reason they actually suggest that people make themselves laugh and have group laughter sessions, advising students to “fake it till you make it.”

3. Have Empathy for Yourself

Those stressed out from working, parenting, or caregiving should try not to be too hard on themselves. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and don’t blame yourself difficulties or bad outcomes. During the hardest times work to soothe and reassure yourself. Try repeating a favorite prayer or self-affirming mantra, reminding yourself that you’re doing the best you can under difficult circumstances.

4. Socialize

Swimming #Seniors

While a few hermits may claim that the solitary life is ideal, the psychological and medical communities agree that it’s important to spend quality time with friends and family. A groundbreaking survey by Gallup in 2008 found that social time is crucial to happiness and well-being. Gallup contacted 140,000 individuals and asked them how happy they had been on the day prior. Respondents were also asked about how many hours they spent socializing the day before (among numerous other questions). Unsurprisingly, there was a direct correlation between social time and reported happiness.

Organize regular monthly get-togethers with friends in a social setting that you can look forward to, such as a dinner club,  a Bunko or Mah Jong game, or  a movie or book club. Also take advantage of opportunities to make socializing therapeutic. If you become overly stressed from caring for an aging parent, join a support group (many can be found through the Alzheimer’s Association). Even online socializing at sites such as our Eldercare Community Forum can be beneficial.

5. Practice Self Care

Body and mind are interconnected, so our bodies will be best poised to cope with stress when we are well nourished and in reasonable shape. Exercise, of course, is key. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever.” Try incorporating extra activity into you daily routine. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator. Park further away than you need to next time you go to the supermarket.

Nutrition is also crucial. By now most of us understand what constitutes a healthy diet, but how we consume our food may be just as important as what we eat. Take the time to savor your food. Sometimes we can’t avoid scarfing something down quickly to keep us up and running. Even so, at least once a day try to eat or drink something really delicious, like a small chunk of fine cheese, an imported chocolate, or a glass of nice wine.

Smiling Man #seniors

6. Look on the Bright Side of Life

Optimism, or positive thinking, has been linked by researchers to increased health and happiness. While there’s some evidence that our level optimism is genetic (or heritable), that doesn’t mean we that we don’t have any choice in the matter or that we shouldn’t make optimism a goal. That would be, well, pessimistic.

A recent study reported about in Medical Daily found that optimism is actually important than one’s physical health in determining wellbeing.

7. Get Enough Sleep and Rest

Sleep is restorative and is one of our body’s ways to mitigate stress. Research by Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, found that the happiness to be gained by getting an extra hour of sleep each night is equivalent to getting a $60,000 raise. How do we get more sleep? A recent study by the University of Pittsburgh Sleep Medicine Institute found that learning some simple but surprising guidelines can help improve sleep duration and quality significantly:

  • Spend less time in bed. Don’t spend leisure time in bed, in the morning or in the evening. If you want to cozy up with a good book, go for the couch rather than your bed.
  • Get up at the same time every day. Your sleep will improve if you can muster the self-discipline to get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you haven’t slept well.
  • Don’t go to bed until you feel sleepy. Even if it is past your normal bedtime, it is better to stay up and be active than to lie awake in bed.
  • Get out of bed if you’re not sleeping. If you’re having trouble sleeping, get up and read or watch a little TV rather than remaining in bed awake.

Mother and Daughter #caregiving

8. Be Here Now

Another way of putting this is, “Live in the moment.” If we live our lives always waiting for some hoped for point in the future (for example our next vacation) we discard the here and now, which is all we really have.  American author Henry James wrote, “Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.”

By Jeff Anderson

www.aplaceformom.com

Image of laughing man courtesy Flickr user Chris Waits, used via Creative Common License

Strategies to Avoid a Wintertime Heart Attack

6 Strategies to Avoid a Wintertime Heart Attack

 

Whatever their cause, heart symptoms should never be taken lightly—especially  during the winter months. According to Cynthia Thaik, M.D., a cardiologist  and member of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart  Association, research has shown that cardiovascular deaths spike by about 18  percent as the days shorten and the weather cools.

Why do cardiovascular concerns increase in winter?

Cold weather, being indoors more often, stress, lack of vitamin D and changes  in the daylight to nighttime ratio all play a role in increasing a person’s  overall risk of cardiac problems during the winter, says Thaik. There’s also  something about the holiday season that seems to be hard on the heart—Christmas  and New Year’s top the list of dangerous days for cardiovascular problems and  death.

And, according to recent research, it doesn’t seem to matter whether you live  in icy Wisconsin, or sunny Florida—the winter months can still take a toll on  your ticker.

Researchers from the University of New Mexico discovered that people who  lived in Texas, Georgia, Arizona and Los Angeles experienced the same jump in  heart-death risk as those residing in cooler states, such as Massachusetts and  Pennsylvania.

There are things you and your loved one can do to shelter your heart against  winters’ dangerous effects:

Bundle up: Despite the findings of the University of New  Mexico study, Thaik says it’s still important to keep warm during the winter  months because temperature does have an effect on the cardiovascular system.  Cold weather can cause blood vessels to constrict, blood pressure to elevate and  blood to become more prone to clotting, according to Neal Kleiman, M.D.,  cardiologist at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston.

Don’t fall off the wagon: Bitter weather and savory comfort  foods make for an unhealthy combination—especially during the holiday season.  While it’s okay to indulge a bit during celebrations, overall Thaik urges people  to, “keep good habits going during the wintertime.” This means sticking to a  regular exercise  routine and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole  grains.

Don’t forgo meds: Just as maintaining a healthy diet and  exercise plan is important in the winter, so too is sticking to any existing  medication regimen you may have. Kleiman urges people not to “slack off on their  medications,” and other health maintenance habits.

Get happy: Seasonal  affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that strikes during the  winter months. Shorter, cooler days spent inside can cause a person to become  lethargic, hungry and uninterested. As with any type of depression, people  suffering from SAD may be less likely to practice healthy behaviors, such as  engaging in regular physical activity and eating a well-balanced diet. Thaik  says it’s important to avoid getting into this depressive cycle. Make sure you  take time to do things that lift up your mood, such as going for a walk, or  spending time with your family (if doing so doesn’t stress you out).

Don’t be an early bird: According to Thaik, one of the  unrecognized side effects of fewer daylight hours in the winter is that people  tend to try and start their days earlier. But, because blood pressure naturally  spikes in the morning, these early birds could be putting themselves at greater  risk for a heart  attack. She suggests keeping early morning activities to a minimum during  the winter months. “The heart likes to take time and warm up,” she says, “take  things gradually in the morning.”

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com  Editor

AgingCare.com  connects family  caregivers and provides support, resources, expert advice and senior housing  options for people caring for their elderly parents. AgingCare.com is a trusted  resource that visitors rely on every day to find inspiration, make informed  decisions, and ease the stress of caregiving.

3 Myths to Dispel About the Brain

What if we could improve our memory, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and keep our brains young with just a few simple mindfulness techniques?

Deepak Chopra recently appeared on the Dr. Oz show discussing memory and the brain. With the recent release of his new book, Super Brain, co-authored by Harvard neuroscientist Rudy Tanzi, there has been a lot in the air about the connection between the mind, aging and brain health. Deepak and Rudy discuss some key themes from the book, including memory, love, and sleep, on The Chopra Well series, SUPER BRAIN.

As it turns out, we have more of a say in the strength and resilience of our brains than we may have thought. Here are three myths to dispel before we can harness the power of our “super brains.” If we can wrap our minds around these, then we are off to a great start.

Myth #1: Over the course of our lives, our brains continuously lose cells that will never be replaced.

Truth: We do lose brain cells as a natural course of wear and tear (about one per second), but these cells are replaced and can even increase in a process called “neurogenesis.” Several thousand new nerve cells come into being every day in the hippocampus, home of short-term memory. We can promote the birth of these new cells by choosing to learn new things, take risks, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes avoiding emotional stress and trauma, which have been shown to inhibit neurogenesis.

Myth #2: The brain is hardwired and cannot be changed.

Truth: Our brains are actually incredibly flexible, if we can just learn to nurture and foster their development. The term for this “re-wiring” is neuroplasticity and is dependent on our own will to try new things, tackle new goals and experience change. The brain’s circuitry can be reshaped by our thoughts, desires, and experiences. This property has been vividly illustrated by dramatic recoveries after injuries, but it also comes to bear every time you take a new route to work or learn a new skill.

Myth #3: Memory loss with age is irreversible.

Truth: It is possible to prevent and even reverse memory loss! Ever misplaced your keys and blamed it on old age? The fact is, you have to learn something in the first place before you can forget it. So it may be that you just never learned where you placed your keys. Practice mindfulness as the first step toward building a resilient memory. Also, memories associated with feelings are much stronger than memories based in simple, hard fact. We must take an interest in everything going on around us, stay alert, and resist feeling hopeless or apathetic about the aging process. Our brains are capable of miracles, regardless of age.

By The Chopra Well

7 Foods that Help You Sleep Well

7 Foods that Help You Sleep Well

“Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe  deeply, move harmoniously.” ― Jean-Pierre  Barral

If you find yourself staring at the ceiling late into the night, try these  foods to help you drift into blissful sleep.

A cup of chamomile tea. For centuries, chamomile has been  harnessed as a herb that alleviates anxiety and promotes relaxation.

A handful of almonds: soak almonds in clean water in the  morning. At bedtime, slide off their skins and munch on them slowly. The  magnesium in almonds relaxes muscles and their protein content keeps your sugar  levels stable while you sleep.

A bowl of oatmeal: Every now and then, I stir up oatmeal for  dinner because it feels so warm and comforting. Only recently, I learned that  I’m actually helping myself sleep better by doing so. The fiber and minerals in  them do a wonderful job of easing the body and mind. Do avoid sugar in your  oatmeal, though.

Half a cup of cottage cheese: the slow-digesting proteins in  cottage cheese/paneer keep your digestive system relaxed all night long.  Besides, it contains tryptophan, the amino acid that plays a key role in  promoting better sleep.

A bunch of grapes: I was surprised to know that grapes are  the only fruit that contain melatonin, the hormone famous for coming to the  rescue of those who cannot sleep. Just munch grapes on their own or stir them  into a bowl of yogurt for a lovely and soothing bedtime snack.

A banana: the secret here is three-fold—potassium, magnesium  and tryptophan, which combine in one wonderful fruit to help you say ‘goodnight.’

Toast: it’s hot, filling and comforting. And surprise, toast  actually helps you sleep well, thanks to its being a trigger for insulin  production, which in turn boosts the sleep-friendly brain chemicals serotonin  and tryptophan.

(Leesa also recommends Good-Night™.   Are you getting enough sleep? Even when you do, are you still waking up feeling tired? Do you toss and turn all night? Does your brain seem to never shut off allowing you to relax?  Finally there’s an all-natural, fast-acting solution to your problem! Fall asleep faster, sleep through the night and wake up refreshed with Good-Night™. Good-Night™ is a fast acting formula that works in harmony with your natural sleep cycle to support a sound, tranquil sleep so you can awaken refreshed and energized without any grogginess.*  Good-Night™  helps relax the mind, combat stress and optimize neurotransmitter production which is crucial to getting a good night’s sleep.* )  (*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.)

By Shubhra Krishan

Shubhra Krishan

Writer, editor and journalist Shubhra Krishan is the author of Essential  Ayurveda: What it is and what it can do for you (New World Library, 2003),  Radiant Body, Restful Mind: A Woman’s book of comfort (New World Library, 2004),  and The 9 to 5 Yogi: How to feel like a sage while working like a dog (Hay House  India, 2011).

6 Diet Strategies For a Sounder Snooze

6 Diet Strategies For a Sounder Snooze

 

A good night’s sleep is not just an extravagance—it’s essential for  maintaining short and long-term health.

If worry and stress are keeping you up at night, you’ve probably searched  high and low for information on relaxation and meditation techniques to help you  salvage some valuable snooze time.

But counting sheep isn’t the only way to get yourself to sleep—what you eat  right before you go to bed can also play a role. While no particular foods are  known to induce sleep; knowing what, when, and how much to eat and drink can up  your chances for a sound snooze.

Here are six things to keep in mind when preparing midnight  munchies:

1. Keep your pre-bedtime beverages virgin and decaf: If you  want a solid stint of shut-eye, stay away from alcohol and caffeine in the hours preceding your bedtime.  It’s true that alcohol, which is a depressant, can help you fall asleep, but it  won’t help you stay that way.Multiple studies have shown that  alcohol can wreak havoc on a person’s sleep cycles—first by reducing the amount  of time they spend in the REM (rapid-eye movement) stage, and then by causing  them to awaken multiple times throughout the night. On the opposite end of the  spectrum lies caffeine—the everywoman’s go-to stimulant. According to the  American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it can take anywhere from 8 to 14 hours for  the effects of caffeine to fully wear off, depending on how acclimated you are  to it. That’s why it’s a good idea to lay off of common sources of caffeine,  including: coffee, tea and chocolate, at least a few hours before you want to go  to bed.

2. Use your diet to master melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone  produced by the brain that plays a big role in regulating sleep cycles. Light is  the ultimate arbiter of melatonin production. When daylight fades, your body  begins to churn out more of the sleep-inducing chemical. It is also available in  supplement form and is a popular alternative to prescription sleep aids. As a  person ages, they generally become less capable of producing melatonin. Cherries  are one of the few foods that can lay claim to being a natural source of  melatonin and studies done by scientists from the University of Rochester and  the University of Pennsylvania have indicated that consuming tart cherry juice  can facilitate sleep in certain people. But chugging cherry juice isn’t the only  way to naturally up your melatonin production. Certain snacks, including:  bananas, some fish (salmon, tuna and cod), pistachios, peanut butter, chickpeas  and fortified cereals contain significant amounts of the vitamin B6—a key  component for making melatonin.

3. Smaller is better: The Mayo Clinic advises hungry  insomniacs to keep their midnight meals miniscule and low-fat. A big meal can  make you feel bloated and may cause painful heartburn. A small bowl of cereal  with milk, or a banana with a bit of peanut butter will generally be enough to  fight off hunger pangs so you can get some shut-eye.

4. Insufficient nutrients can equal insufficient sleep: A  rumbling tummy and certain vitamin deficiencies can contribute to insomnia.  Research has shown that maintaining a healthy level of vitamin D in particular  is essential for sound slumber. Aim for a nighttime snack that includes:  fortified cereals and dairy products, and eggs.

5. Carbo-loading isn’t just for marathoners: Bread lovers  rejoice—carbs are a key component of sleep-inducing snacks. Consuming  carbohydrates makes it easier for your brain to pick up and convert tryptophan (an  essential amino acid found in a variety of different foods, including: eggs,  cheese, oatmeal, potatoes, bananas and poultry) into serotonin and melatonin,  two hormones that make you more relaxed and drowsy.  When creating your  bedtime snack, it’s probably best to stick with complex carbs, such as: fruits,  oats, whole grain cereals and breads, and veggies.

6. Liquidate your pre-bedtime fluids: In order to prevent  unwanted trips to the bathroom at one o’ clock in the morning, the Mayo Clinic  recommends avoiding drinking too much in the hour or so right before you go to  bed.

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor

AgingCare.com provides online  caregiver support by connecting people caring for elderly parents to other  caregivers, elder care experts, personalized information, and local resources.  AgingCare.com has become the trusted resource for exchanging ideas, sharing  conversations and finding credible information for those seeking elder care  solutions.

 

6 Ways Fitness Makes You Successful

6 Ways Fitness Makes You Successful

It’s 8:25 p.m. and you’re working late.  Again. The boss has gone home,  along with most of your coworkers. But  not you: you’re still chained to your  desk, and you’ll probably be there  for a while.

Over the last few months you’ve been cranking through work, though.  You’ve  pulled ahead of your competition, and you figure a significant  promotion — along with a bigger paycheck and more responsibility — is  right around the  corner.

Sure, you feel rundown and you’ve put on some weight. But you just  haven’t  had much time to sleep, much less shop for and prepare healthy  food. And the  prospect of squeezing in a workout when there is so much  to do seems  laughable.

Here’s what you tell yourself: I’ll work out when I clear these  projects. I’ll sleep after I get the promotion. I’ll start eating  better when the kids start school.

It’s a scenario familiar to many of us: too much on our plates, not  enough  hours in the day, and a persistent feeling that any time away  from work means  lost time, money and accomplishments.

Many of us have been brainwashed into thinking that stress and poor  health  are the price of success. We may even see our rundown bodies as  evidence of our  unflagging dedication to the demands of our careers.

New research shows that this zero-sum view of work and working out is   flawed. Far from detracting from your productivity and efficiency,  regular  exercise can make you smarter, and more effective, resilient and successful. And this is true whether your “profession” involves  tackling corporate mergers or taking your kids to soccer  practice.

In addition to helping you look and feel better, time invested in  upgrading  and maintaining your fitness repays itself many times over in  ways that  psychologists, brain experts and other researchers are only  beginning to  understand. And putting even a little effort into upgrading  your health and  fitness can have a surprisingly dramatic effect on your  professional  performance.

Fit for Success

You may have been hired for your brain power. But the condition of  your body  could matter more than you realize, particularly as you climb  the corporate  ranks. A 2005 survey conducted by TheLadders.com  found that 75 percent of top executives considered being physically fit  “critical to career success” and being overweight “a serious career  impediment” to advancement.

It turns out that employees’ salaries are influenced by how closely  their  body weight approximates an “ideal,” which frequently and unfairly  differs by  gender. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2011  found that slender women out-earned their overweight female  colleagues by a  significant margin. Men of moderate weight, meanwhile,  earned more than both  slender men and overweight men.

Being thin, in other words, tends to be an advantage for women and a   disadvantage for men. Being heavy is a disadvantage for both.

It’s unfortunate, to say the least,  that these sorts of prejudices   persist. Until attitudes change, though, it means that if you’re  overweight,  you’ll probably be operating at some level of professional  disadvantage.  Getting into better shape could give your earning power a  direct boost; it  could also benefit your confidence and self-esteem in  ways that amplify your  job performance.

That’s why Phyllis R. Stein, a career counselor from Cambridge,  Mass., with  more than 36 years in the business, says: “Whether you’re  looking for your next  job or trying to reach the next rung on the  corporate ladder, I consider  exercise an essential job-related  activity.”

Stress Case

Cultural biases notwithstanding, success-oriented people have plenty  of good  reasons to work out regularly, says Stein. One of the best:  Exercise improves  energy while decreasing stress and amplifying mental  focus.

Consider cortisol, a steroid hormone that regulates your energy   throughout the day. Under normal conditions, cortisol levels peak early  in  the morning to get you going, and then gradually decline as the day  progresses,  leaving you mellowed out and ready to sleep at bedtime. A  hectic work  environment can throw this natural circadian cycle into  disarray. Commuter  traffic, an irate boss or an impending deadline can  create small cortisol  spikes during your day, each one followed  immediately by a sharp decline in  energy and mood.

Worse, many stressed-out workers turn to junk food, sugary  snacks and caffeinated energy drinks to keep themselves going — all of which  can make the hormonal roller-coaster ride even wilder. Months of this  routine  can exhaust and ultimately kill off some of your brain’s  stress-regulating  neurons, leaving you perpetually listless.

“When you’re chronically stressed, the normal daily cortisol cycle  can  flip,” says Tom Nikkola, CSCS, CISSN, director of nutrition and  weight  management for Life Time Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn. “This can  leave you  barely able to get out of bed in the morning, but too keyed up  to sleep at  night.”

Though it may seem like a minor, inevitable annoyance to the  ambitious  white-collar warrior, sleep deprivation actually comes with a  steep economic  price. One 2004 study estimated that sleep disruption of  various kinds cost  Australia more than $4.5 billion annually in the form  of lost work, reduced  productivity and accidents — 0.8 percent of the  gross domestic product.

Here again, exercise can come to the rescue. “Easy movement, like  walking or  low-key yoga, before bedtime nudges the parasympathetic  nervous system into  gear, diffusing stress and helping to calm you  down,” Nikkola says. Even 10 to  20 minutes of stretching before hitting  the sack, for instance, could keep you  from tossing and turning,  resulting in an additional hour of slumber. And when  you’re sleeping  better at night, you’re also less likely to reach for the junk  food and  energy drinks that can wreak havoc with your daily energy cycle.

If you’re willing to kick your intensity up a notch to the “moderate”  level  (the equivalent of a brisk walk or anything that gets your heart  pumping), you  get other benefits, including improved mental focus. A  2008 study found that 45  to 60 minutes of a midday group exercise class  improved the mood, performance  and concentration of white-collar  workers.

“The clear and positive benefits of exercising only accrue on the  days when  it happens,” notes the study’s lead researcher, Jim McKenna,  PhD, professor of  physical activity and health at Leeds Metropolitan  University in the United  Kingdom. A second study, published in 2010 in  the journal Pain Med,  showed that just 10 minutes of exercise produced measurable reductions in  anxiety and depression.

So rather than skip that yoga class when you’re facing a day loaded  with  challenges, it’s probably wise to make it an even higher priority.  “You should  treat your workout like it’s the most important meeting you  have all week,” Nikkola says.

Reclaim Your  Brain

“When you’re stressed, your brain busies itself trying to keep you  safe from  threat — real or imagined,” says Sascha du Lac, PhD, associate  professor of  neurobiology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies  in San Diego.  Self-preserving thoughts can monopolize the brain space  that could otherwise be  used for scanning your environment, accessing  memories and relating to other  people.

Fortunately, physical exercise can help heal and hone the very same mental  abilities that are sabotaged by everyday stressors.

Picture yourself hiking or running on a trail. Though you’re not  conscious  of it, this relatively simple, pleasurable activity requires  you to make  hundreds of split-second choices — about foot placement,  balance and  navigation, for example — which can improve your capacity to  think, feel and  relate to others.

“The cerebellum, the area of the brain traditionally associated  mainly with  movement, is also involved with higher functioning, like  planning, socializing,  abstract thought — even creativity and emotional  intelligence,” explains  Elizabeth Beringer, director of the Feldenkrais  Institute of San Diego and  editor of Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe  Feldenkrais (North Atlantic Books, 2010).

“When you exercise regularly, your attention can broaden and shift at  will,” adds du Lac, “away from fearful, self-preserving thoughts and  onto what’s  actually going on around you: the responses of your  coworkers, your own  insights and ideas, the specific demands of the task  at hand.”

Psychological research has also shown that, for many people, a  regular  exercise routine is a “keystone” habit: a behavior that sets off  a chain  reaction of seemingly unrelated positive behavioral changes. In  a 2006 study  published in The British Journal of Health Psychology,  researchers  found that sedentary people placed on an exercise program  voluntarily began  smoking less, drinking fewer alcoholic and caffeinated  drinks, and eating  healthier. They also did more household chores, used  their credit cards less  often, and kept up more diligently with study  and work obligations. Everything  in their lives that required  self-discipline, in other words, became easier — almost by magic.

“Regular exercise builds self-regulatory resources,” explains Todd   Heatherton, PhD, professor of psychology and brain sciences at Dartmouth   College and an expert in habitual behavior and addiction. This ability  to  self-regulate, or exert willpower, say researchers, may be the most  significant  key to success in any work environment — it’s what  allows you to stick  to a task when others give up, and to overcome  obstacles that at first seem  insurmountable.

Small Changes, Real  Results

Improvements in mood, energy and productivity aren’t affected   significantly by the type of exercise you choose, so don’t fret too much   about whether you should be getting your work-enhancing boost from  yoga, a Zumba class or a run around the lake. The key is to do  something you enjoy — and maybe something a little novel as well.

“Learning is inherently enjoyable to humans,” says Beringer. “It  lights up  pleasure centers in the brain.” So mix things up, and try to  include activities  that build in some variety and progression, like team  sports, dance or martial  arts.

Also keep in mind that if your primary fitness goal is to boost your  work  performance, you can begin with a relatively small commitment of  time. “Researchers believe that 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous  exercise, a few  times a week, is all you need to see positive  adaptations in the brain,” says  du Lac. “You can do that all at once or  in small segments throughout your  day.”

And when you can’t spare even that much time and effort, just use  your head. “Imaginary movement lights up the same areas in the brain  that real movement  does,” says du Lac. Clinical studies show that  athletes who visualize an  unfamiliar exercise see gains in strength and  power similar to those who  actually practice the movement.

So when work is pushing you to the limit, spend a few minutes  daydreaming  about a jog down the beach, complete with the feeling of wet  sand beneath your  feet and the smells and sounds of the ocean. The  process could confer at least  some of the same benefits of a real  workout.

Of course, you’ll get the most significant advantages from moving  your  entire body on a regular basis. And now that you know the extent to  which your  professional future depends on it, you may find yourself  more motivated to do  just that.

The Efficient  Workout

If driving to and from the gym for an exercise class just isn’t in  the  cards, try these easy ways to get in a fat-burning, muscle-building  workout on  a busy day:

  • Hop in the saddle. Consider bike commuting. You get  to  skip the stress-filled commute, burn some calories, reduce your  carbon  footprint and save gas money all at the same time. Bonus: It’s  tough to flake  out on your after-work exercise routine when the bike is  your only way  home.
  • Grab a bell. A kettlebell, that is. Pick up a hefty  one at  your local sporting-goods store and stash it underneath your  desk at work. In  10 minutes, you can do a full-body, low-impact workout  that puts the treadmill  to shame.
  • Climb a skyscraper. Racing up the service stairs of  tall  city buildings is becoming an increasingly popular urban sport —  in large part  because it’s tough. If you work in a high-rise, lace on  your running shoes, hit  the stairs and scamper up 10 or more flights as  fast as you can. Take the  elevator back down (for recovery), if you’d  like, and repeat two to four more  times.
  • Make like a monkey. Mount a chin-up bar in the  doorway to  your office, and do a single pull-up every time you go in or  out. Can’t do a  pull-up yet? Stick with the self-assisted, jump-and-pull  variety until you can,  which will be soon, because you’ll net dozens of  reps per day. To avoid angry  memos from the boss, get a bar that mounts  over the door jamb — not one that  requires screws and a drill.

Fitness Tips for the  Time-Starved

“Keeping active doesn’t have to mean taking up residence at the gym,”  says  Elizabeth Beringer, director of the Feldenkrais Institute of San  Diego and  editor of Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais (North  Atlantic Books, 2010). “The trick is to make movement a natural  part of  your day rather than another thing you have to make time for.”

  • Sound the alarm. “Staring at a computer screen can  pull  your attention away from your body. People often sit motionless in  front of  them for hours on end, and only later realize they’re in pain.”  So instead of  waiting till your lower back is begging for mercy, set an  alarm that tells you  to get up and stretch every 20 minutes or so.  These micro-breaks will help  stave off aches and improve your focus.
  • Reach out. Ergonomic experts will tell you to set  up your  workstation so that everything you need is right in front of  you. Beringer  suggests going the opposite route: “Extending your arms is  extremely  pleasurable, and we almost can’t do it enough,” she says. “So  put some things  you regularly need — important documents, a file  cabinet, the phone — an arm’s  reach away so that you have to extend and  shift in your chair every so  often.”
  • Rise up. Every hour or so, get out of your chair.  Go  refill your water bottle. Do some deep lunges and a few pushups.  Schedule a  walking meeting. Make a point of getting vertical several  times throughout your  day. You can also experiment with working at a  counter or other standing-height  surface.
  • Go mobile. “Mobile devices like cell phones were designed  to help us be more mobile,” says Beringer. “But few people take full  advantage of  that.” So don’t hunker down at your desk during a cell-phone call  when  you could be walking around the room or climbing stairs. Attending to   your body’s need for movement helps you think, interact and perform your  job  better.

By , Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness  publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic  lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in  favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com   to learn more and to sign  up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe  to the print or digital version.

10 Habits for Better Sleep

10 Habits for Better Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep ensures more than extra spring in your step each day.  According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, chronic sleep loss can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, and a weakening of the immune system! Conversely, good sleeping habits boost the ability to learn and remember things, keep weight in check, keep an upbeat attitude, maintain cardiovascular health, fight off disease, and avoid accidents caused by drowsiness. If you struggle with getting quality zzzs, the following tips can help you develop sleeping habits to live by.

Go to bed at the same time every night.
One of the best ways to ensure you get enough sleep it to create a routine that you and your body become accustomed to. And step number one in establishing a healthy sleep routine is setting and sticking to a bedtime that allows you to get enough sleep—but not too much sleep. (The National Sleep Foundations claims the “right” amount of sleep is based on the individual and his or her age.) Select a bedtime that gives you between seven and eight hours of snooze time and you’re on the right track.

Wake up at the same time every morning.
The yin to the above tip’s yang, waking up at the same time each day not only assures you don’t oversleep. It also enables your body to get into a rhythm, and lots of studies have shown that longstanding routine—as well as adequate sleep—has been linked to longevity.

Nap if you go off schedule.
Travel, deadlines, worries, and all kinds of other routine interruptions can put a damper on your sleep schedule. But rather than try to make up lost time by sleeping in, it’s better to take a midday nap when you can. Otherwise, you will throw off your new routine.

Don’t drink caffeine in the evening.
The drink that gets you going in the morning is also the one that will keep you up at night—if you drink it too late in the day. Know your limits and avoid caffeine too close to bedtime. After all, the last thing you want to do is tuck yourself in only to stare at the walls as your heart races thanks to an after-dinner espresso.

Don’t use technology in your bedroom.
Your TV, smartphone, and computer are all gadgets that get your mind buzzing, not relaxing. In order to calm yourself down, it’s a good idea to keep all distractions out of sight, lest you be inspired to click on the news or check your email one last time. In fact, your bedroom should only incorporate items conducive to sleep.

Create darkness.
Your body is designed to take sleep cues from darkness. So why not help it out by making your space nice and dark? Use thick curtains or shades, cover or hide the clock, and help your brain power down for the night.

Use a noise machine if necessary.
Some noises are soothing, such as the sound of the ocean or the whisper of the wind. But other noises—like loud neighbors or honking cars—can keep you from getting the zzzs you need. Luckily, there are plenty of noise machines on the market that offer a variety of “white noise” options. Even a fan can help drown out unwanted decibels if you’re in a pinch.

Eat on the early side.
Big meals right before bedtime force your body to digest rather than rest, while especially rich or spicy meals may cause sleep-depriving discomfort as they make their way through your stomach. Eat light and on the early side and you’ll ensure your food won’t keep you up.

Avoid alcohol before bed.
Sure, alcohol can make you drowsy and even help you fall asleep. But it also tends to wake you up in the middle of the night, lessening the overall quality of your sleep. Steer clear of libations, or go moderate early in the evening, to increase your chances of solid sleep.

Make sure your bed is comfortable.
If ever there were an investment worth making, it’s a quality mattress and bedding. Yes, these items are expensive. But consider them a preventative medical expense—seriously. A good mattress and comfy sheets and pillows help ensure you get the sleep you need—and all the health benefits that come with it.

By Molly, from DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

8 Tips to Become a Morning Person

8 Tips to Become a Morning Person

 

You don’t have to naturally be an early bird to become one. Make the  following changes to your daily routine and environment and give  yourself a little time to adjust and you, too, can be one who effortlessly gets  the proverbial worm.

1. Go to bed early.

Yes, it’s a given, but it’s important enough to emphasize; in order  to wake  up early and feel refreshed, you must go to bed early enough to  get a full  night’s sleep. Additionally, you should make your bedtime  consistent every  night in order to create a pattern that you will  instinctively follow if  repeated long enough.

2. Wake up at the same time every day.

Just as too little sleep makes you tired, too much sleep does the  same  thing. Plus, if you don’t create a pattern for your body to follow,  it will  resist your early-bird intentions. Wake up at the same time  every day,  including weekends, until your body adjusts and ultimately,  you may not need a  wake-up call at all.

3. Get a relentless alarm clock.

The yin to the above tip’s yang, you aren’t likely to get up early  if you  can perpetually hit the snooze button. Find a fool-proof way to  make sure you  wake when you are supposed to—without delay—and you’re on  your way to morning  person status.

4. Don’t drink caffeine or excessive alcohol in the evening.

All your good intentions will be foiled if you drink the wrong  beverages.  Caffeine obviously keeps you perky, which is great up until  the time you’re  ready to go to sleep. Don’t drink any after noon,  especially when you’re  starting out your new routine, to give you better  snoozing odds. Alcohol, too,  can foil best-laid sleeping plans. It may help you get groggy,  but later it disrupts sleep, causing exhaustion that lingers into the next  day.

5.  Exercise in the early evening.

While exercise gets the heart rate going and boosts energy, it also  helps  you get seriously restful sleep—so long as you give yourself  enough winding-down time after your workout. Break a sweat right after work and you’ll have plenty of  time to get groggy before bedtime. Bonus: It  helps eliminate the stress that  might keep your mind busy when it should  be snoozing.

6. Eat healthy early evening meals.

Food hangovers happen all the time. In fact, most of us are  suffering from  one at any given time. Unfortunately, the kind of foods  you eat can disrupt  sleep, too. While you’re not likely to change your  diet just to accommodate  sleep, you can and should eat on the early side  so your body isn’t overwhelmed  trying to digest and dream.

7. Prepare for your day the night before.

Being a morning person doesn’t have to mean you bound out of bed and  whiz  around. Any sleepy shortcomings you have can be overcome with some  advance  planning. Get your coffee at the ready, lay out your wardrobe  for the day, and  make your lunch the night before. Then you’ll have less  to do as you drowsily  get into your new routine.

8. Reconfigure your bedroom for optimal sleep.

Sleep experts everywhere recommend that you make your bedroom a  sleep  sanctuary. That means you should keep stimulating distractions,  such as the TV,  smartphone, or computer, out of the bedroom and focus solely on soothing things  that are conducive to getting your snooze on.

By Samantha, selected from DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women  come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability,  and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by  writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real  women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re  discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel  and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

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