Archives for Health
If I want to feel happier and more contentment, I try to increase positive emotions, engage in meaningful activities, meditate, and spend time with loved ones. All of these ideas work pretty well, though there are also other aspects of well-being I don't always consider. For instance, I'm not the type of person who counts calories and watches what I eat. Frankly I can still eat about anything I want without it negatively affecting my appearance (though I think my metabolism is finally starting to slow now that I'm 28). Because of this I tend to disregard how my diet and related lifestyle impacts my mood and mental health. By no means do I eat unhealthy, I'm just not highly restricted. However, over the past few months I have set some goals in this area and have now started to incorporate a more well-rounded diet. Coincidentally, I notice a positive difference in my energy level and attitude.
If you're like me, you have to make an effort to slow down, be present, and unwind. We live in a fast paced world with incessant activity and multiple points of attention. This is why learning and practicing mindfulness is such a wonderful tool for experiencing greater emotional and physical health. Mindful practices and interventions such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and general mindfulness mediation have been shown to benefit people with chronic pain, stress, cancer, depression, anxiety, and numerous other mental and physical ailments. Mindfulness can help us to relax, have greater self-control and manage our behavior, change how we think about things, be less judgmental, and develop healthy levels of acceptance. All of which have merit when it comes to our overall health and well-being.
As you consider any habits or unhealthy behavior you want to work on this New Year, there are two questions to ask yourself before making any resolutions: First, why do you want to reach your resolution? What's the purpose you want to lose weight, quite smoking, or give up caffeine? I imagine you believe it will make you happier and more fulfilled. For many people, enhancing our well-being is a major reason we make lifestyle changes. Secondly, what's going to help you follow through and achieve your goals? Positive psychology can offer us some insight and a potential solution to both of these questions. Pleasure, engagement, and meaning have been show to be unique predictors of well-being.
Over the year stress can add up at work, and that once far off holiday vacation starts to look really appealing. For most professionals the end of the year is an ideal time to take a vacation and get away from the responsibilities and demands that have consumed most of the past 11 months. Holidays can be stressful in themselves, however, if we don't organize some free time and plan how we're going to manage all of the holiday expectations. If you find yourself overwhelmed during the holiday, a vacation may be just what you need. An essential part of the vitality, energy, and engagement people have in their work comes from the refreshment of a vacation, and research in Work and Stress (2010) reveals that vacations can boost employee's overall well-being and health.
Exercise and physical activity has been shown to have great psychological benefits, and most likely this is nothing new to you. However, due to a busy life and natural changes in our physical ability we may not find time or feel too exhausted to engage in a strenuous workout. A simple solution is to go for a brisk walk. Walking is pleasurable for most people, it isn't excessively demanding, and it's a form of exercise that can be engaged in often and without guidance. Walking won't necessarily offer the same extent of physical benefits related to strength, but nonetheless, be open to the psychological benefits of walking. I have incorporated this valuable activity into my life ever since getting a dog. When the weather permits, I enjoy waking up to the sun rising and going for a walk. I really try to admire the smell of morning dew, the sound of trees rustling and birds chirping, and watching for wildlife along the way.
Most people don't look forward to the changes that come with old age. It's easy to focus on decline in cognitive ability, and the potential health problems and physical limitations. These notions can make old age seem less than satisfactory. However, some research reveals that despite these general deficits, people may actually become happier as they age. Specifically, emotion regulation skills may improve with age, leading to decreasing negative affect, and more stable positive affect. In general, older adults may have an increasing sense of life-satisfaction, and be able to regulate their emotions more effectively than younger adults, allowing them to experience longer-lasting positive emotions and more fleeting negative moods. The way older adults process information has been shown to be different from young adults, as they tend to pay attention to more positive information and tend to recall more positive memories.
If you're like most people, sleep is crucial for your well-being. Research increasingly reveals that people do not function optimally when they are sleep deprived. Sleep gives us energy, a positive attitude, and better ability to cope with daily stress. We need adequate sleep for physical restoration, growth, adaptability and memory. In general, Americans, particularly adolescents and aging adults, don't get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can decrease our cognitive ability to focus, problem solve, and maintain attention, and it can cause irritability and emotional irregularity. All of which can interfere with positive well-being. So, what can be done to help us sleep better and be more rested? Often, sleep disturbances are related to excessive worrying and general arousal during bed time - this could be from our drinking and eating habits, or a general inability to relax and wind down.
How long does it take to change a habit or behavior? I have heard different estimates, from 21 days to 30 days in particular. Obviously, the longer we engage in a new behavior the more likely we are to change an ingrained habit or to add a new one. If we want to make changes in our life we are better off setting a healthy and positive goal, and work to add a new habit, than we are to simply stop unhealthy behaviors. There may be a habit or two that you are looking to change. If so, take this 30 day challenge to start a new behavior.
There are many things we can do to improve our physical health. We can exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get adequate sleep - just to name a few. However, an often overlooked aspect of optimal health is how our emotions and thought life plays in role in our physical health. Think about a time when you were emotionally exhausted and distressed. How did you feel physically after all was said and done? When we are emotionally exhausted, our body tends to respond concurrently. We may get headaches, feel sick to our stomach, or actually become physically ill. The mind and body connection offers an important focus for what it means to be truly "healthy." It's difficult to feel good when we are physically ill, just as when we are emotionally distraught and overwhelmed by stress it takes a toll on our body. The medical field is beginning to recognize that our perspectives, emotions, and mood have implications on our physical health. In John Kabat-Zinn's book Full Catastrophe Living he reviews studies that examine how our physical health is intimately connected with our patterns of thinking and the beliefs we hold. Below are some ideas adapted from his book on how our emotions, thinking, and attitude impact health.
The increasing number of older adults will be staggering over the next two decades. In order to have positive well-being, it is paramount that "baby-boomers," as well as future generations, consider the consequences of their lifestyle on mental and physical health. This means having a healthy dose of positive emotions, the absence of physical disability, and general life-satisfaction as the people reach the second half of their life. What can people do then to support their positive aging? There are large individual differences in physical and cognitive functioning of older adults. Negative stereotypes about aging may lead older adults to negatively interpret the natural changes that accompany aging and develop limiting expectations. Though, older adults who engage in regular physical and mental activity, as well as having a positive attitude, improve the odds of successful aging. They tend to be healthier and live longer than adults who are sedentary and don’t stimulate themselves intellectually. Research has also revealed seven factors that predict positive aging.